four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
32-Jan-Feb-2008
By: 
Peter Hoeg
user_rating: 
0

A-The Quiet GirlIn a near-future Denmark, 40-something Kaspar Krone, a renowned circus clown and Bach aficionado, uses his psychic abilities to understand people through the imperceptible sounds they emit. Facing extradition for tax evasion, Krone enters into a strange order of nuns, who promise to shelter him and grant him debt immunity if he can aid a group of children with similar mystical gifts. When KlaraMaria, the "quiet girl" of the group, disappears, Krone starts to track her down. His search brings him into contact with a manipulative businessman and discoveries that put into question the nature of love, identity, reality-and the truth about these children.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 408 pages. $26. ISBN: 0374263698

Independent [U.K.] 4 of 5 Stars
"Hoeg lays himself open to overgilding (or just silliness), but this ornate style gradually creates an alluring texture reminiscent of the richness of description and obscure manoeuvrings in James Buchan's mazy thrillers. ... At once intricate and explosive, The Quiet Girl is elegantly written and furiously plotted, resonant (though not acoustically) of Phillip Pullman's Dark Materials trilogy and also David Mamet's elaborately staged deceptions." James Urquhart

St. Petersburg Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Hoeg's new novel, The Quiet Girl, is every bit as adventuresome and aspiring as Smilla was, even more so. ... Hoeg's novel travels all over Copenhagen, and all over the fictional map in today's no-exposition, no-foreshadowing style of narration, familiar from films like Reservoir Dogs, 21 Grams and most recently Michael Clayton." David Walton

Wall Street Journal 4 of 5 Stars
"The novel teems with flashbacks, philosophical asides, ironical observations, theological musings, gripping scenes and events (the setting is again Denmark), and a sort of magic realism that elevates to celestial heights the uncanny human capacity to hear. ... [Hoeg] quotes from Kierkegaard and the theologian Meister Eckhart, cites Carl Jung, and alludes to Bach and Beethoven-all the while probing the nature of reality or, say, the conflicts between society and the individual." Diane Scharper

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"Treat The Quiet Girl as a thriller, and you'll sprint happily to its unexpected and enigmatic ending. Treat the novel as a love story, and you may be surprised by the deep silence of its final pages." Keith Donohue

Times [UK] 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Described by European critics as a postmodern novel, The Quiet Girl has drawn comparisons to John Barth and Thomas Pynchon for its play with trivia and disjointed narrative. Far from quiet, its pages teem with apercus about theology, music, philosophy, pop culture and science." Ben Naparstek

Guardian [UK] 3 of 5 Stars
"The factor that made Miss Smilla a sales sensation remains intact here in set-piece scenes including a flooded Copenhagen, a convent, a former military airfield and the final curious construction in which the mystery is more or less resolved. And although Høeg often breaks the strictest rules of thriller-writing-several riffs and details turn out to be of surreal irrelevance-he still creates a sense of tension that makes the reader want to carry on." Mark Lawson

Critical Summary

When first published in Denmark, The Quiet Girl-a thriller and love story with elements of magical realism-provoked debate between conservative and liberal critics; the former accused Peter Hoeg of literary pretension, while the latter praised his experimental techniques. No such dispute divided American critics, who embraced this remarkable novel-from the quirky characters, gripping action, compelling settings, and eloquent writing to the author's impressive ruminations on philosophy, pop culture, earthquakes, music, and feminist theology. British critics, citing dense, labyrinthine passages and an overly ornate style, greeted the novel only slightly less enthusiastically. Compared to Hoeg's masterpiece Smilla's Sense of Snow, The Quiet Girl is a small jewel of avant-garde literature.

Also by the Author

Smilla's Sense of Snow (1993): In this classic psychological thriller, a woman in Copenhagen starts to investigate the death of a small boy neighbor. Using her astonishing ability to distinguish types of snow and ice, she determines to find out whether he died from an accident-or was chased to his death.