The Quiet Girl

( 5 )

Overview

A Chicago Tribune Favorite Book of 2007

The internationally acclaimed bestselling author of Smilla's Sense of Snow returns with this "engrossing, beautifully written tale of suspense . . . captivating" (The Miami Herald).

Kaspar Krone is a world-renowned circus clown, and a man in some deep trouble. Drowning in gambling debt and wanted for tax evasion, Krone is drafted into the service of a mysterious order of nuns who promise him reprieve in ...

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Overview

A Chicago Tribune Favorite Book of 2007

The internationally acclaimed bestselling author of Smilla's Sense of Snow returns with this "engrossing, beautifully written tale of suspense . . . captivating" (The Miami Herald).

Kaspar Krone is a world-renowned circus clown, and a man in some deep trouble. Drowning in gambling debt and wanted for tax evasion, Krone is drafted into the service of a mysterious order of nuns who promise him reprieve in return for his help safeguarding a group of children with mystical abilities--abilities that Krone also shares. When one of the children goes missing, Krone sets off to find the young girl and bring her back, making a shocking series of discoveries along the way. The Quiet Girl is an exuberant philosophical thriller that is "every bit as adventuresome and ambitious as Smilla's Sense of Snow, even more so" (Cleveland Plain Dealer).

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Extraordinary . . . There is no more morally (and imaginatively) engaged novelist writing today."--Newsday

"Completely immersive and riveting . . . There is more wit, gravity, and madcap pleasure in The Quiet Girl than in any new book I’ve read in recent memory."--The New York Sun

"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."--The Washington Post

"Høeg’s writing is jewel-encrusted. . . . This is writing that sparkles to distract from its deep philosophical aspects."--Los Angeles Times

"Slyly compelling, the story unfolds at breakneck speed."--Chicago Sun-Times

Keith Donohue
Kasper Krone, the unlikely hero of Peter Hoeg's new thriller, is a clown. The Quiet Girl, set in a contemporary Copenhagen shaken by earthquake and flood, is an equally unlikely page-turner: the thriller as philosophical novel and postmodern comedy…But like the mystical music always there beyond our hearing, the essence of the novel hides within the object of Kasper's quest. The missing quiet girl, KlaraMaria, is an old soul in a 10-year-old body. She balances the frenzy and chaos of Kasper's life. Slowly, their short history unspools…and a great love story is born, the true subject of The Quiet Girl, the love shared between a man and a child, platonic, unselfish and powerfully redemptive…That Hoeg splices together so many conventions should come as no surprise to readers of Smilla's Sense of Snow, which was his first novel to be published in English. 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.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Høeg built his bestselling mystery, Smilla's Sense of Snow, around the science of ice. In this labyrinthine, intellectual thriller, Høeg focuses on the nature of sound, and in particular the music of Bach. In a near future where an earthquake and resulting flood have submerged a portion of the city of Copenhagen, Kasper Krone, a world-famous clown and passionate Bach fan, is about to be deported for not paying his taxes. But an official in a secret government agency known as Department H offers to make the charges disappear if Krone will help them locate a young girl, KlaraMaria, who was once his student and shares his peculiar psychic abilities. The blend of science, erudition and slow revelations could only have been written by Høeg, and will appeal to his many fans and other readers with a taste for the literary offbeat. (Nov.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Publishers Weekly

With his cool intelligence, James Gale is an ideal choice to read Hoeg's latest intellectual thriller. Like Smilla's Sense of Snow, Hoeg has created a Fellini-like world of bizarre and dreamlike landscapes and events. Gale wisely underplays just enough to make listeners eager to find out more. In a flooded part of Copenhagen, Kasper Krone-a famous clown, psychic and passionate lover of the music of Bach-has run afoul of the tax authorities and faces deportation. But a bureaucrat from the Kafkaesque "Department H" promises to make the charges disappear if Krone will help them locate a young girl who was once Krone's pupil, now being looked after by a society of nuns. Gale guides the characters through a tangled tale of music and mystery without missing a beat or overstating a point. Gale makes Krone a wonderful mixture of motives and passions, and his villainous bureaucrat reeks with the banality of evil. Simultaneous release with the FSG hardcover (Reviews, Sept. 3). (Nov.)

Copyright 2007Reed Business Information
Library Journal

In his fifth novel, Høeg (Smilla's Sense of Snow) has crafted an intellectual thriller combining such unlikely elements as an intimate knowledge of Bach's music, the geology of earthquakes, the Russian Orthodox Church in Denmark, and the impeccable timing of great circus clowns. His protagonist, Konrad Krone, is a world-famous clown with world-class gambling debts. Hired by an order of Orthodox nuns to protect a group of unusually gifted children in exchange for debt immunity, Krone uses his unique sense of hearing to track down the sinister businessman who has kidnapped two of the children. The plot has as many twists as an acrobat's performance. Krone discovers that not only does he have a special link to one of the missing children but also that his lost love may be part of this complex conspiracy. This work has many of Høeg's hallmarks-prescient children, a complex and discontinuous narrative, and a central figure still mourning the loss of a parent. As the novel reaches its satisfying denouement, readers will appreciate that a master has not lost his sense of timing. Strongly recommended for all fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ7/07.]
—Andrea Kempf

Kirkus Reviews
A former circus clown's efforts to save endangered children is the unusual premise of the bestselling Danish author's labyrinthine fifth novel (Tales of the Night, 1998, etc.). The carefully layered narrative, reminiscent of both Hoeg's Smilla's Sense of Snow and Borderliners, unfolds through the experiences, intuitions and memories of Kasper Krone, in his early 40s and retired from the circus. Kasper is gifted (cursed?) with "absolute hearing": the ability to sense and comprehend other people through the distinctive sound waves they emit. He's also a passionate devotee of classical music (especially Bach) and a former gambler and tax-evader whom the Danish government threatens to deport. Then a convent well-connected to secular government activities offers Kasper a way out of his dilemma. Agreeing to safeguard a group of children who possess paranormal powers akin to his own, he's whirled into a maelstrom of intrigue involving strategies to reverse the recent pattern of devastating floods caused by earthquakes, the disappearance (and likely kidnapping) of a strangely prescient preadolescent girl, KlaraMaria, and evidence of exploitation of children that may include sexual abuse and is perhaps condoned by the Church (represented by the figure of an enigmatic abbess, the Blue Lady). All this is formidably complicated, and made even more baffling by oddly juxtaposed past and present scenes and by Hoeg's habit of jump-cutting to the middle of a scene, which he subsequently presents in full. The novel is portentous, clogged with discursive detail (much of which is genuinely interesting) and-particularly in the unconvincing climactic action-rather cloyingly sentimental. But the real mystery isabsorbing, and Hoeg generates great intensity by developing his characters through their interactions and confrontations. Kasper is fascinating, as are his moribund father (and collaborator) Maximilian, several spirited women (including Kasper's former lover Stina) and, of course, the elusive "quiet girl" KlaraMaria. Overwritten and murky, but there's life in it-will appeal most to fans of Smilla's Sense of Snow.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312427771
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 9/30/2008
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 781,734
  • Product dimensions: 8.24 (w) x 10.90 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Hoeg, born in 1957 in Denmark, followed various callings--dancer, actor, sailor, fencer, and mountaineer--before turning seriously to writing. His work has been published in thirty-three countries. The Quiet Girl is his fifth novel.

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Read an Excerpt

The Quiet Girl


By Peter Hoeg

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC

Copyright © 2006 Peter Hoeg
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-374-26369-0


Chapter One

She Almighty had tuned each person in a musical key, and Kasper could hear it. Best in the brief, unguarded moments when people were nearby but didn't yet know he was listening. So he waited by the window, as he was doing now.

It was cold. The way it could be only in Denmark, and only in April. When, in mad enthusiasm for the spring light, people turned off the central heating, brought their fur coats to the furrier, dispensed with their long underwear, and went outside. And only when it was too late, discovered that the temperature was at freezing, the relative humidity 90 percent, and the wind was from the north and went straight through clothing and skin, deep into the body, where it wrapped itself around the heart and filled it with Siberian sadness.

The rain was colder than snow, a heavy, fine rain that fell like a gray silk curtain. From behind that curtain a long black Volvo with tinted windows appeared. A man, a woman, and a child got out of the car, and at first it looked promising.

The man was tall, broad-shouldered, used to getting his own way-and capable of having a powerful impact on those around him if he didn't. The woman was blond as a glacier and looked like a million bucks; she also looked smart enough to have earned it herself. The little girl had dignity and wore expensive clothes. It was like a tableau of a holy, wealthy family.

They reached the center of the courtyard, and Kasper got his first sense of their musical key. It was D-minor, at its worst. As in Toccata and Fugue in D-Minor. Great fateful pillars of music.

Then he recognized the little girl. At that precise moment the silence occurred.

It was very brief, perhaps a second, perhaps not at all. But while it lasted, it obliterated reality. It took away the courtyard, the rehearsal ring, Daffy's office, the window. The bad weather, the April month. Denmark. The present time.

Then it was over. Vanished, as if it had never existed.

He clutched the door frame. There had to be a natural explanation. He'd suffered an attack of indisposition. A blackout. A temporary blood clot. No one survives with impunity two nights in a row, from eleven to eight in the morning, at the card table. Or it had been another tremor. The first big ones had been felt way out here.

He cautiously looked behind him. Daffy sat at the desk as if nothing had happened. Out in the courtyard the three figures struggled forward against the wind. It hadn't been a tremor. It had been something else.

The true mark of talent is the ability to recognize when to give things up. He'd had twenty-five years of experience in rightly choosing to part with things. He need only say the word, and Daffy would deny him a home.

He opened the door and extended his hand.

"Avanti," he said. "I'm Kasper Krone. Welcome."

As the woman shook his hand, he met the little girl's eyes. With a slight motion, evident only to him and her, she shook her head.

He took them into the practice room; they stood there looking around. Their sunglasses gave them a blank air, but their tone was intense. They had expected more finesse. Something in the style of the main stage at the Royal Theater, where the Royal Danish Ballet rehearses. Something like the reception rooms at Amalienborg Palace. With merbau and soft colors and gilded panels.

"Her name is KlaraMaria," said the woman. "She's a nervous child. She gets very tense. You were recommended to us by people at Bispebjerg Hospital. In the children's psychiatric ward."

A lie causes a delicate jarring to the system, even in a trained liar. So too in this woman. The little girl's eyes focused on the floor.

"The fee is ten thousand kroner per session," he said.

That was to get things moving. When they protested, it would initiate a dialogue. He would get a chance to listen to their systems more deeply.

They didn't protest. The man took out his wallet. It opened like the bellows of an accordion. Kasper had seen wallets like that among the horse dealers when he was still performing at fairs. This one could have contained a small horse, a Falabella. From it emerged ten crisp, newly minted one-thousand-kroner bills.

"I must ask you to pay for two sessions in advance," he said. "My accountant insists on it."

Ten more bills saw the light of day.

He dug out his fountain pen and one of his old letterpress cards.

"I had a cancellation today," he said, "so as it happens, I can just manage to squeeze her in. I'll start by examining muscle tone and awareness of body rhythm. It will take less than twenty minutes."

"Not today," said the woman, "but soon."

He wrote his telephone number on the card.

"I must be in the room," she said.

He shook his head.

"I'm sorry. Not when one is working with children on a deep level."

Something happened in the room-the temperature plummeted, all oscillatory frequencies fell, everything congealed.

He closed his eyes. When he opened them again, fifteen seconds later, the bills were still lying there. He put them in his pocket, before it was too late.

The three visitors turned around. Walked out through the office. Daffy held the outer door for them. They crossed the courtyard without looking back. Seated themselves in the Volvo. The car drove off, disappearing into the rain.

He leaned his forehead against the cold glass of the window. He wanted to put his fountain pen back in his pocket, into the warmth of the money. The money was gone.

There was a sound from the desk. A riffling sound. Like when you shuffle brand-new cards for one of Piaget's games. On the desk in front of Daffy lay the small mahogany-colored stack of new bills.

"In your outer right-hand pocket," said the watchman, "there are two hundred kroner. For a shave. And a hot meal. There's also a message."

The message was a playing card, the two of spades. On the back, written with his own fountain pen, were the words "Rigshospital. Staircase 52.03. Ask for Vivian.-Daffy."

That night he slept in the stables.

There were about twenty animals left, horses and a camel, most of them old or worthless. All the others were still in winter season with circuses in France and southern Germany.

He had his violin with him. He spread out his sheet and duvet in the stall with Roselil, half Berber, half Arabian. She was left behind because she didn't obey anyone except her rider. And not even him.

He played the Partita in A-Minor. A single lightbulb in the ceiling cast a soft golden glow on the listening creatures. He had read in Martin Buber that the most spiritual people are those who are closest to animals. Also in Eckehart. In his sermon "The Kingdom of God Is at Hand." One should seek God among the animals. He thought about the little girl.

When he was about nineteen, and had started to make a name for himself, he had discovered that there was money in his ability to access people's acoustic essence, especially children's. He began to cash in on it at once. After a couple of years he'd had ten private students per day, like Bach in Leipzig.

There had been thousands of children. Spontaneous children, spoiled children, marvelous children, catastrophic children.

Finally, there had been the little girl.

He put the violin into its case and held it in his arms, like a mother nursing her child. It was a Cremonese, a Guarneri, the last thing that remained from the good years.

He said his bedtime prayer. The closeness of the animals had calmed most of his anxiety. He listened to the weariness; it converged from all sides simultaneously. Just as he was about to determine its key, it crystallized into sleep.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Quiet Girl by Peter Hoeg Copyright © 2006 by Peter Hoeg. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 24, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Unusual, bizarre, fantastical

    Marcus Krone, world famous Danish clown, now 42, wanted by authorities in Spain and Denmark for back taxes. His quest seems to be to save a nine or ten year old girl, Klara Maria. This is puzzling and abstract confused novel, ultimately leaving many questions unanswered. Marcus meets and interacts with Stina, Mother Superior, his father Maximilian, taxi driver Franz Feiber, Sonja, Daffy, Vivian, African nun--all him try to find the girl, and then a boy, William Kain. The parts that are straightforward are well done and then Hoeg goes off on the fantasy--is the girl real, is the story about world wide child abuse. I had read Hoeg's Smilla Sense of Snow and enjoyed it enough to read it twice. Quiet Girl left me down and disappointed, but I did stick with it and read it cover to cover.

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    Posted October 15, 2008

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