Peter Høeg’s The Quiet Girl is one of the most interesting and complex books that I have recently read. Its twisting plot, multi-faceted characters, and elements of magical realism all require the reader to pay attention. It is attention well-rewarded though. Høeg writes beautiful sentences that resonate in the ear and on the tongue.
Probably best known for his dark and icy thriller Smilla’s Sense of Snow, Høeg here has crafted another captivating story that has a compelling mix of mystery, philosophy, science, and action. The Quiet Girl begins with Kasper Krone, circus clown, heavily-in-debt gambler, violinist, and a man who can hear that “SheAlmighty had tuned each person in a musical key.” Krone’s extrasensory abilities are the hub on which the plot of the story turns. He discovers that he is not alone in hearing people’s music, and when a young girl, who has her own extrasensory abilities, goes missing, Krone is recruited to help recover her, a job that will possibly enable him to avoid prosecution for tax fraud and deportation to a Spanish prison.
The book is jumpy and shifts from scene to scene sometimes without a clear view or resolution. This constant movement adds to the tension of the story, but does require attention from the reader. The Quiet Girl is not really a crime novel, though it has elements of mystery writing, nor is it a fantasy story, though there are times where Høeg takes the reader beyond the walls of our normal world. Instead, Høeg blends stylistic pieces from several genres, writing on what Michael Chabon described as “the borderlands” of fiction (see the essay “Trickster in a Suit of Lights” in Chabon’s Maps and Legends). The Quiet Girl also has a strong sense of place. The city of Copenhagen becomes a part of the aural landscape of the story, as Kasper’s unusual hearing abilities allow Høeg to describe the sounds of the city in a new way. The Quiet Girl offers readers many entry points, beautiful writing, fascinating characters, and a thrilling plot. Give it a try.
Check the WRL catalog for The Quiet Girl