The Quiet Girl, Peter Hoeg, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006, 408 pp
Smila's Sense of Snow, Hoeg's first novel, was unforgettable but in The Quiet Girl, he has surpassed even that. Once again there is a special child, once again there is a strong, intelligent, capable heroine, there are dastardly villains and the sense of a thriller but there is also so much more. I suppose some critic could complain that there is a bit too much more but I like a story that works on various levels.
Kaspar Krone is a world famous clown, a professional violinist and a free spirit who spends the whole story in a world (literally) of trouble. He has a gift: an ability to hear beyond what most mortals can. He can discern what musical key any giving person is in; he can locate a phone caller's location by the sounds he hears through the phone. Every aspect of life has a sound that relays to Kaspar most of what is going on. Reading about this amazing world of sound made me realize how little I listen to life around me.
Kaspar has a personal deity he calls SheAlmighty. He is partial to nuns and loves women in general. KlaraMaria is a gifted child for whom Kaspar feels unaccountably responsible. She and several other children like her are being used by unsavory persons for financial gain. Then there is Stina, the great unrequited love of Kaspar's life.
Despite his religious proclivities and his many talents, Kaspar is pretty much a self-centered asshole. His personality defects make the characters around him seem almost holy, though none of them are without flaws and the reader is never really sure which are villains and which are trustworthy. Woven into this breakneck thriller are layers of philosophy and contemporary issues, orchestrated by all manner of music both popular and classical.
Will KlaraMaria be saved? Will Kaspar and Stina ever get back together? Who exactly is behind the terror of troubles in the characters' lives? Hoeg answers all questions, wraps up all loose ends, most everyone is allowed either redemption or justice.
I was entertained, intrigued and kept thinking of new ideas the whole way through this magical mosaic of a tale which touched on all five senses and every emotional level from despair to absurdity.