The Quiet Girl by Peter Hoeg, Book Review
Story of a Quiet Girl
Somewhat similar to the Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow novel, The Quiet Girl tells of a special person, a famous Danish clown Kasper with a remarkable gift, keen hearing enabling him to make a sound map of an entire town, to determine from a phone call where the person he was talking to is – and to determine it by the surrounding sounds of the speaker alone.
To Kasper, every person has a particular sound; a quiet person is about closest to divine as possible, and he meets one such girl, young KlaraMaria, his student in physical comedy which he uses as a therapy for troubled children. KlaraMaria, bruised, slips him a note saying she was abducted, and begs him for help.
Kasper has problems of his own, for he was avoiding paying taxes for quite a while. This means he needs to escape the authorities while looking for KlaraMaria – and soon he’s not looking just for her, there seem to be several children with special abilities, several children from all over the world who are like KlaraMaria, and they’re all missing (one girl turns out dead and mutilated). The time is running short, for how long can these wonderful children survive?
Although in a form of a thriller, The Quiet Girl occasionally becomes surreal, looking like magical realism, making it somewhat difficult to follow. Episodes from Kasper’s past jump in in such a way it can be difficult to determine what happened when, how, or why. He mystery is more or less resolved at the end of the book, but reading it is not an easy journey, although it is rewarding.
It is unusual for a thriller to have such a mystical atmosphere, and yet, in The Quiet Girl it works, probably because of Kasper and his unique perception of the world. While there’s nothing wrong with his eyes or other senses, he mostly uses his hearing. He hears in shades and sees in tones, or at least that is the way he thinks of things. That is the way he thinks of people, too, which is sometimes making it difficult for him to communicate to others.
The children in The Quiet Girl are adorable. They are gifted and very special, but at the same time, they are very much children, with some very good-natured desires, and also with desires reminding readers of spoiled brats. In spite of them having such special gifts making them unavoidably different, their actions and desires are easy to understand, because they’re first and foremost children.
All the characters grow by the end of the book. They all learn something. Kasper is perhaps the one who learns most, from his dying father who keeps helping him, from the woman he loves and who left him because he believed he was so special she should devote her life to serve him, and from the children – at the end he discovers there is one child to whom he needs to make up a lot.
The Quiet Girl may not be an easy read, because of its mysticism and meandering storytelling and unique perspective of the protagonist, but the mysterious world and compelling characters are well worth the effort – the book grabs your attention and refuses to let go.