About ten years ago, I had a friend who recommended the works of this author, told me Smilla's Sense of Snow was one of his favorite books. So I started reading it, but at fourteen/fifteen, I just didn’t have the patience with the postmodern fragmentary construction of the text. I ended up just skimming through it, and later watched the film in order to put all of the pieces together. But the one aspect of the book that’s stayed with me after all those years was Høeg’s poetic style. Imbedded in the text are certain observations that are cool and intriguing in the way they’re crafted. So when I came across The Quiet Girl
, remembering that particular aspect of Høeg’s writing, I decided to try again.
Now that I’m older, I’m better able to grasp what Høeg’s doing with his storytelling. He’s writing a mystery, and rather than giving the reader all of the information as it happens, he’s giving you pieces—each page is a new piece to the puzzle. He’s forcing the reader to become part of the story and be the detective—to arrange all of the puzzle pieces together into a cohesive whole. Considering it in this light, I can sort of respect what he’s doing, but it still takes just over 100 pages to really understand what’s going on. The basic story skeleton follows Kaspar Krone, a famous circus clown, and his attempts to locate and uncover the conspiracy surrounding the disappearance of KlaraMaria, a girl he’s met a few times at the circus. From the moment he first meets KlaraMaria, he immediately senses something special about her—the calm, soothing silence that radiates from her being—something he’s always secretly desired for himself. Day and night Kaspar’s constantly bombarded with sound and music. An accident has left him with the ability to sense and gauge people’s auras and thoughts with music; slight shifts in thought or feeling can change the tone/song that radiates from a person’s soul. When he’s with KlaraMaria, her silence cancels out his own abilities, and eventually grows to love her like a daughter. When he discovers that she’s been kidnapped, he’s afraid of how her abilities may be manipulated, and begins a quest to find her.
I thought this idea interesting. Høeg’s other novels also include stories about children with special abilities. However, I’m not that sold on the ending. Personally, I feel it would have been better for the novel to end on a personal level rather than the grand philosophical questions on which the book ends. I’m still trying to figure out if in the end, the table’s turned… that Kaspar’s actually the one in danger of being manipulated in this grand scheme.
As a side note, some of the action scenes involving Kaspar tend to be a bit farcical, but keeping in mind that he is a clown associated with the magical farce of the circus, it does somehow make sense. After reading those scenes, I couldn’t help but laugh and say, “Wow! What a man!” ;-)
And like Smilla’s Sense of Snow
, The Quiet Girl
’s also chock-full of those fun and poetic observations. Below’s a brief sampling:
“Children woke up at six-thirty in the morning and shifted directly into fourth gear. Fourteen hours later they rushed straight into sleep at more than a hundred miles an hour without decelerating.”
“The real opportunity in family life was not the security, not the monotony, not the predictability. The real opportunity lay in the fact that sometimes there were no pretenses, no masks, no reservations; suddenly everybody took out his earplugs, it was quiet, and one could hear the others as they really were.”
“Already the ground frost was so thick he could feel the cold through the soles of his shoes. The girl must have a different metabolism from him; in her thin sweater she seemed to be carrying summer around with her.”
“She looked at him. As if she wanted to determine his molecular weight.”
“The city sounded like a single organism. It had been up early, and now it was weary. Now it sank down into the furniture, heavy as a moving man. And under the weight he heard the uneasiness that is always there, because yet another day is over, and what was accomplished, where are we headed?”