Fiction, 1992 (Denmark), 1993 (English translation)
Translated from the Danish by "F. David"**
Harvill (Random House), trade pb, 404 p.
(US title: Smilla's Sense of Snow)
A small boy falls to his death from a city rooftop. Accident, say the police. Murder, says his resourceful friend Smilla, who, half-Greenlander, can read the marks left in the snow.
"It is freezing, an extraordinary -18°C, and it’s snowing, and in the language which is no longer mine, the snow is qanik – big, almost weightless crystals falling in stacks and covering the ground with a layer of pulverized white frost."This story wasn’t like any that I’d read before. Somehow the combination of the writing, the cold, winter setting, the detached character of Smilla, and the story itself conveyed a certain mood that I can’t really describe but that certainly kept me a little spell-bound, especially for the first half of the book. I really enjoyed how the story slowly unfolded, a piece here, another there. It worked really well to maintain the drama and kept me turning the pages.
I lost a little bit of that feeling of being mesmerized in the last half of the book during the long journey but even then there was action and suspense to keep the story moving. I never really knew what would happen next or how it would all turn out. At first I wasn’t sure how I felt about the ending but now I think it is fitting and it's left me with quite a vivid, lasting image. I’m very curious to watch the film now to see how it compares and will have to try to get my hands on it.
Final verdict: An excellent winter read!
An amusing quote:
"The raspberry tart has a bottom layer of almond custard. It tastes of fruit, burnt almonds, and heavy cream. Combined with the surroundings, it is for me the quintessence of the middle and upper classes in Western civilization. The union of exquisitely sophisticated crowning achievements and a nervous, senselessly extravagant consumption."And this one made me smile because I can so relate to it, being rather useless in both French and Japanese.
"I’ve had the privilege of learning foreign languages. Instead of merely speaking a watered-down form of my mother tongue, like most people, I’m also helpless in two or three other languages."Something fun: The Smilla Cocktail
**A fascinating look at the differences between the UK and US translations, and the story behind the two versions: A Tale of "Two" Smillas.
My Rating: 4/5
(#5 for 2009, 1% Well-Read Challenge, Lost in Translation Challenge)
Also reviewed at:
Lynda's Book Blog
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