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).
Peter Høeg is the author of the international bestselling novel Smilla's Sense of Snow. Born in 1957 in Denmark, he followed various callingsdancer, actor, sailor, fencer, and mountaineerbefore turning seriously to writing. His work has been published in thirty-three countries. A Chicago Tribune Favorite Book of the YearLonglisted for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award Set in modern Denmark, The Quiet Girl centers around Kaspar Krone, a world-renowned circus clown with a deep love for the music of Johan Sebastian Bach, and an even deeper gambling debt. Wanted for tax evasion and on the verge of extradition, Krone is drafted into the service of a mysterious order of nuns who promise him reprieve from the international authorities in return for his help safeguarding a group of children with mystical abilitiesabilities 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 about her identity and the true intentions of his young wards. The Quiet Girl blends social realism with literary fantasy and pits art and spirituality against corporate interests and the will to war by the industrialized world. "Like Smilla's Sense of Snow, The Quiet Girl spins a labyrinthine plot, sometimes looping into the past to fill in context as scenes unfold. This time around, though, Mr. Høeg adds a theological theme. In The Quiet Girl, Krone wants nothing less than to hear the sound of God. The novel teems with flashbacks, philosophical asides, ironical observations, theological musing, 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 . . . [The Quiet Girl] takes it serious themes seriously, as many novels do not, and, with its busy plot, it never loses a thriller's sense of go."Diane Scharper, The Wall Street Journal "An engrossing, beautifully written tale of suspense. But in Peter Høeg's hand, a thriller is never just a thriller. Along with the usual ingredients of mystery, mayhem, and peril, Høeg's works offer philosophical explorations threaded with information about arcane subjects . . . Captivating."The Miami Herald "Kasper Krone, the unlikely hero of Peter Høeg's new thriller, is a clown. The Quiet Girl, set in a contemporary Copenhagen shaken by earthquake and flood, is [a] philosophical novel and postmodern comedy . . . 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."Keith Donohue, The Washington Post "Like Smilla's Sense of Snow, The Quiet Girl spins a labyrinthine plot, sometimes looping into the past to fill in context as scenes unfold. This time around, though, Mr. Høeg adds a theological theme. In The Quiet Girl, Krone wants nothing less than to hear the sound of God. The novel teems with flashbacks, philosophical asides, ironical observations, theological musing, 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 . . . [The Quiet Girl] takes its serious themes seriously, as many novels do not, and, with its busy plot, it never loses a thriller's sense of go."Diane Scharper, The Wall Street Journal "The Danish novelist Peter Høeg is a writer of thrillingly promiscuous intellectual curiosity, and his new novel, The Quiet Girl, is so clamorous with incident and ideas that, by the end of it, you feel less like you've just read a book than had it thrown with great enthusiasm at your face. Nevertheless, it is completely immersive and riveting; I found myself leaving parties early to get back to it. There is more wit, gravity, and madcap pleasure in The Quiet Girl than in any new book I've read in recent memory. It would be useless to attempt a thorough summary of the novel's ambitiously dense narrative in this space, but that doesn't matter, because the characters and tone in The Quiet Girl are far more important than the plot . . . Swerving in and out of the narrative are countless flavorful charactersmostly femalewho could all live full lives as protagonists of their own novels. This novel's pace is breakneck, almost recklessMr. Høeg writes in distinctive staccato sentencesbut the momentum feels maniacally assured and frequently euphoric. (The Quiet Girl reminded mejust a bitof James Ellroy's totemic L.A. Confidential in that both novels are essentially just staggering, kinetic cascades of information.) Mr. Høeg has equipped Kasper with a melancholy wit and a penchant for gnomic proclamation, which are useful for those moments when the clown decides to step out of the action and gently slow it with commentary . . . Exhaustion sets in near the conclusion of The Quiet Girl (how could it not, given the energy and density of the preceding pages?), but it doesn't really matter. 'We exist like beach fleas on a whale of submerged powers we can't control,' writes Mr. Høeg, and readers will skitter like beach fleas across this behemoth of a plot. It's no use trying to turn it over or take it apart, at least not on a first reading. Better just to stay on top of it and enjoy the experience; there are few others as fine."Nick Antosca, The New York Sun "In his fifth novel, Høeg combin[es] 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 hallmarksprescient 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."Andrea Kempf, Library Journal "Høeg's vision has grown steadily darker over the years, from Borderliners, which concerned a group of innocent children struggling to survive a world of life-draining institutions; through The Woman and the Ape . . . which concluded that there was no escape from the deathly pallor of civilization; and on to this novel, which seems to suggest that even children are not entirely to be trusted. The hero here is a world-famous circus clown and violinist, Kaspar Krone, who possesses a mystical ability to identify an individual's personality in terms of the sounds and musical keys that emanate from them. His special talent brings him in contact with a group of children who also possess mystical powersperhaps even the ability to alter physical reality. One of those children, the 'quiet girl' of the title, has disappeared, and Krone is compelled to rescue her from the madman who seems determined to use the children to create panic in Copenhagen's financial institutions. Or possibly it is the quiet girl who is doing the manipulating. On one level, the novel is a forward-thrusting, suspenseful thriller, but on another, it asks confounding questions about the nature of reality and the possibility of love in a world devoid of innocence . . . readers . . . will respect Høeg's genius for stretching the bounds of narrative fiction in altogether new directions."Bill Ott, Booklist "A former circus clown's efforts to save endangered children is the unusual premise of the bestselling Danish author's labyrinthine fifth novel. The carefully layered narrative, reminiscent of both Høeg'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) . . . 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."Kirkus Reviews
"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."Publishers Weekly