We’ve just spent a week on holiday in Cornwall, where, apart from the IPCC tomes (mostly unopened) and Obama souvenier edition newspapers (mostly disguarded unread), my holiday reading was a reread of Peter Hoeg’s Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow.
I first read this about a decade ago, and had dug it out for someone else to read because we’d been talking about excellent translations (and translators). There is an interesting story (pdf) about the translation itself - there being substantial differences between the US and UK editions. Anyway, the book came back, and languished on the floor of the car until a couple of weeks ago, when I was stuck for half an hour in the car, and so I started to read it again …
Of course a decade was plenty long enough for me to have forgotten the entire plot so it was effectively a fresh read.
The first thing to say about this book is that despite the Danish orgins, even in English, the prose is just fabulous! Mostly I don’t care for “fabulous” prose … when I’m reading a novel I just want a direct connect from text to my brain that doesn’t have me realising that I’m actually reading at all … fancy language gets in the way of that (for me). But this book is different. I can’t pull a sentence, or paragraph for you, because I somehow managed to read it in my normal way (ie without being conscious of actually reading), but I still have a sense of joy from the process of reading it. It was clearly wonderful in the original Danish, so all Kudos to the translator(s).
The story itself is a pretty good thriller, with an engaging, resourceful lead character (Miss Smilla) who manages to segue in a nearly believable way from one scarcely survivable event to another. I enjoyed the first half more, as the believability/survivability function fell significantly in the second half, but for all that, it was a good read as a thriller. A majorly unbelievable bit was the reason for it all, but since that only became clear right at the denouement (which, as wikipedia puts it, is “unresolved”), it mattered not.
There is more to it than the thriller and the prose, the glimpses of Denmark and Innuit culture and society and their relationships, with each other and Smilla, weave throughout and give it real character.
Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow is a seriously good read on many levels. If you even half like thrillers, read it!