Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Smilla Jasperson knows snow and ice, thanks to her childhood in Greenland, where her mother was an Inuit hunter.  She now lives in Copenhagen with financial help from her wealthy Danish father.  When a neighbor child, Isaiah, falls from a rooftop and dies, she determines that he was being chased, just by examining his footprints in the snow.  The police, however, are apathetic and uncooperative, and the boy’s mother is an alcoholic.  Her only ally is a mechanic who also befriended the child, and his behavior becomes suspicious as the novel progresses.  When Smilla discovers that the boy’s father died on a clandestine expedition, she begins investigating whether there’s a connection between the father’s death and the son’s.  Along the way, she encounters a cast of unsavory characters who threaten her life, but Smilla is pretty capable when it comes to self-preservation and self-defense.  In this regard she bears some resemblance to that other Scandanavian heroine—Lisbeth of Dragon Tattoo fame.  As is often the case with a translation, I found it difficult to keep the characters straight, and this book is not nearly as fast-paced as Larssen’s trilogy.  Smilla also burdens us with a fair amount of technical stuff about ice formation, ice structure, ice-breaking, etc.  I will say, though, that reading a novel that is partially set in Greenland is a first for me.  As long as the action was taking place on land, I stayed absorbed in the story, but eventually the path to uncovering the truth leads Smilla to a job as a sort of stewardess on a ship.  At this point I thought the book started losing its believability.  The ship’s crew and guests are the most dangerous creeps yet, and their mission is to complete the task that was aborted on the expedition in which Isaiah’s father died, no matter what the cost.  Not until the end does Smilla have an inkling of what lies in store, and her unlikely ally on the ship is a junkie.  I have no complaints about the nebulous ending, but some of the other answers to the whole puzzle left me scratching my head and feeling like it was all a little above my pay grade.

No comments: