Peter Hoeg






Translated from Danish by Nadia Christensen
Random House, 2007
Reviewed by Kerrie Smith

Kasper Krone's God is a woman. "She Almighty had tuned each person in a musical key and Kasper could hear it." The world hums around Kasper. Some people emanate harmony, others a sense of confusion. Kasper's perceptions are inundated by orchestral imagery, keys and tones. Kasper works with damaged children, those who have retreated into themselves. He treats them by accessing their "accoustic essence".

Kasper's father Maximilian, now dying in a hospice, was a circus clown. He took Kasper into the ring with him, and circus imagery has always been part of Kasper's life. Maximilian decided when Kasper was in his teens to leave the circus life so that Kasper could have higher education and a secure income. Kasper, though, had the circus in his blood and never forgave Maximilian, returning to the circus at times throughout his life.

One of Kasper's patients is a nine year old girl called KlaraMaria. In her he can sense great pain, and he suspects that she has been abused, perhaps sexually. Days after he had first met KlaraMaria those who brought her to Kasper paid him off, sending a message that they no longer required his services. A year later KlaraMaria has disappeared from the children's home she lives in and Kasper fears for her life.

At this point I must confess that I have not finished reading this book. It is most unusual for me to abandon a book in mid stream. I am nearly 200 pages in, and have only a sketchy idea of what is going on. It is not for want of trying. After the first sixty pages I started again, but I feel as if I am swimming in treacle. I think the story is swinging through a number of time frames. It switches from the past to the present, from Kasper's childhood to his friendship with a young woman called Stina who disappeared, from reality to illusion. So confused am I that I don't even feel as if I can trust my perceptions of what the book is about. I think, but I am not sure, that some of the conversations that Kasper has with KlaraMaria are in his mind. Certainly Kasper has preserved Stina's tone and vibration in his mind so that he can imagine that she is with him.

The writing style in this book is fairly dry and minimalist. The reader is left to draw the images and make the connections from scanty clues. I can't tell whether this is the effects of poor translation or not. I'm disappointed because I read and enjoyed his earlier novel MISS SMILLA'S FEELING FOR SNOW.

So there it is, my first DNF for this year. I feel defeated!

Review first published on Murder & Mayhem, July 2008


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