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on 24 November 2017
It took me a while to get into where the book was going - by which time I was hooked. The characters are vivid if all-but unbelievable. The plot unfolds without too many clues where it’s leading. My best read in years!
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on 10 December 2017
Wonderful book
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on 6 October 2017
extremely good esp for such an early novel
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on 29 November 2017
Hard work
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on 6 October 2017
As so often I was drawn to this book by a radio discussion - this time with the author, a dazzling intelligence with unusual modesty and a determination that we don't think of his characters as psychologically valid but merely as linguistic patterns. Of course he's right, we know Miss Smilla and the mechanic don't exist but we need that suspension of disbelief to keep us interested. Do I believe in that linguistic phenomenon he has created? Not entirely. Is being a displaced person sufficient to give you that detachment and determination? That courage and physical dexterity? That ingenuity and quick thinking? I very much doubt it. But it's a fascinating conundrum and it is our curiosity as much as hers that keeps us reading, keeps us interested in obscure facts that I, for one, struggle to begin to understand. That and the morally very ambiguous desire to see the unrighteous suffer. At the end of the interview Peter Hoeg said that when he allowed himself to succumb to the idea that the characters had any psychological reality he wanted Miss Smilla and the mechanic to get together. I don't believe she would have the necessary capacity for forgiveness once the sexual fire had burned down. it still, thought provoking and intriguing; well written and plotted: a good read indeed.
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on 14 December 2013
... I have to say it that took a tremendous effort, and the further in I got the harder the reading became.

Somehow I missed this book when it first came out, but it has been recommended to me several times and finally, feeling that I must be the only person I know who hasn't read it, I decided to give it a try. I'm afraid I feel as if I've wasted a great deal of reading time. 410 pages, and hardly any of the characters have left an impression on me - including Miss Smilla. The never-ending stream of her narrow escapes from violent death began to seem more like something out of a superhero cartoon. Not being either technically-minded or a seaman, I found the endless ducking and diving around the ship difficult to follow, and quite unnecessary in many places - it often felt more like padding than narrative. I lost count of how many return trips she made in the dumb waiter. By the time I finally got to the end I had lost what little interest I had ever had in why Isaiah died and by whose hand.

I have always heard this described as 'a classic'. Perhaps it is, and the fault for not enjoying it is mine. I admit that I found the Danish names hard to remember and the characters therefore difficult to distinguish one from another, and that didn't help, but I think in the end the universe in which the story was set just didn't capture my imagination. Neither did the men and women who peopled it. A great shame.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 3 October 2014
This clever novel opens with the death of a small boy who falls from a Copenhagen roof. His neighbour, an eccentric Greenlander named Smilla, suspects his death was not an accident and starts to investigate. What starts out as a crime novel develops in an unusual and original way, ending up as more of a thriller.

The characters, in particular Smilla and her neighbour, are interesting and complex. Smilla is intriguing and ultimately likeable as you gradually get to know her. It's a long novel, with plenty of time for expanding on both the characters and the increasing involved plot. Sometimes I found it quite hard to keep track of the characters and who did what, particularly given their names were unfamiliar and they were often introduced in a brief way but in association with something complicated, such as a name on a research paper.

It's unusually cerebral for a thriller, with lengthy digressions on the shape of snowflakes and the history of Greenland. At times it gets in the way of the story, particularly towards the end when you just want to find out what is going to happen next. But in the earlier parts it contributes to the tension and also a lot of what seems irrelevant detail actually ends up being important in the plot. So my advise is to read with care in the earlier sections, noting who the characters are and what you're told about them, and the information you'll find on a variety of topics. The novel takes a couple of unexpected turns and it all comes together. At times it is far fetched, but then all thrillers are to some extent.

I'd highly recommend it to fans of crime novels, as it is something a bit unusual that doesn't follow the normal format for the genre. Thriller readers will also like it, although it is slower than many and has long sections without any heart stopping action (but that does give the dramatic moments more impact). It's well written enough to appeal to a wider readership, as it is very much a 'literary novel' despite it's apparent 'crime' label.
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on 22 December 2016
I am really trying with this book. As others have said, it starts out really well, the characters are interesting and it promises a lot. I'm 2/3rds of the way through and it's hard going...the author spends so long going off at a tangent that I've lost what's happening and who's who! I am determined to finish it although it's 50/50 whether I ever will.
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on 29 December 2015
I really enjoyed this book. It was exciting, extremely interesting and very thought provoking.
I loved all the descriptions of life in Greenland - somewhere with which I am not very familiar (although, after reading this book, I have spent time finding out about it) and the thought processes of Smilla make excellent reading.
I also like a book that teaches me about something new - I know nothing at all about ice and snow, and the information was fascinating.
I found it very hard to put the book down, I kept wanting to find out what was going to happen. If you enjoyed The Killing, you'll like this story.
Also,the last part of the book, from the chapter 'The Sea:1' onwards reminded me terrifically of an updated Modesty Blaise book - the 'baddie' characters, with that touch of madness that you always find in any Modesty Blaise adventure; the fight scenes, where, despite being battered and injured herself, Smilla manages to outwit and defeat her protagonist, and the final scenario. It was as if Smilla had become a modern day Modesty by accident, and Fojl was a kind of flawed Willie Garvin. I'd be interested to know if Peter Hoeg read the Modesty Blaise books at any time. This doesn't detract from the enjoyment of the book in any way, and I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a good mystery and action novel.
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on 5 June 2017
I first read this in the mid 90s and loved it. On re-reading, I find it still thoroughly enjoyable. It has a whiff of Jack London and Joseph Conrad about it, with a dash of existentialism thrown in to lighten the mood, and the heroine is exactly what you'd expect the product of an Arctic childhood to be - tough, resourceful, resilient. I hope my daughters grow up to be as strong as Smilla.
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