Our book for August 2013 in Silver Spring is Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow by the Danish writer Peter Høeg. Before becoming a writer, Høeg worked variously as a sailor, ballet dancer and actor (in addition to fencing and mountaineering)--experiences that he uses in his novels.
Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow or Smilla's Sense of Snow (in Danish: Frøken Smillas fornemmelse for sne) was published in 1992 and has been translated into English by Tiina Nunnally. The novel is ostensibly a work of detection and a thriller, although beneath the surface of the novel, Høeg is concerned with rather deeper cultural issues, particularly Denmark's curious post-colonial history, and also the nature of relationships that exist between individuals and the societies in which they are obliged to operate. The protagonist, 37-year-old Smilla Qaaviqaaq Jaspersen, is a sympathetic and useful vehicle in this respect, her deceased mother being Greenlandic Inuit and her father a rich Danish doctor.
Having been brought in childhood from the poverty and freedom of Greenland to the affluent and highly ordered society of Denmark, Smilla's relationship with Denmark and Danish society is strained and ambivalent. Smilla investigates the death of a neighbor’s child whom she had befriended—a fellow Greenlander, with an alcoholic, neglectful mother and a mysteriously deceased father. The story begins in Copenhagen, where the child has fallen to his death from their apartment building's snowy rooftop. The police refuse to consider it anything but an accident—there is only one set of footprints (the child's) in the snow leading to the edge of the roof.