“The True Deceiver” by Tove Jansson

TheTrueDeceiverWikipedia notes that this is a novel by Swedish-Finnish author Tove Jansson, which was translated into English by Thomas Teal and won the Best Translated Book Award in 2011.

“Snow has been falling on the village all winter long. It covers windows and piles up in front of doors. The sun rises late and sets early, and even during the day there is little to do but trade tales. This year everybody’s talking about Katri Kling and Anna Aemelin. Katri is a yellow-eyed outcast who lives with her simpleminded brother and a dog she refuses to name. She has no use for the white lies that smooth social intercourse, and she can see straight to the core of any problem. Anna, an elderly children’s book illustrator, appears to be Katri’s opposite: a respected member of the village, if an aloof one. Anna lives in a large empty house, venturing out in the spring to paint exquisitely detailed forest scenes. But Anna has something Katri wants, and to get it Katri will take control of Anna’s life and livelihood. By the time spring arrives, the two women are caught in a conflict of ideals that threatens to strip them of their most cherished illusions.”

We read this in May 2015 and ten members gathered round the table ready to share their thoughts.  Virtually everyone admired the writing, describing it as beautiful, bright, clever. We thought that the book was very atmospheric, conveying the chilling aura of Scandinavian winter. However, some of us felt that the ending (or perhaps even the whole book) was puzzling or flat.

On the whole the book was perhaps admired rather than loved. However, it scored well with a range from 5 to 9 and an average of 7.1 (based on 11 readers including one email vote).

Brenda missed the meeting but sent these thoughts:

A compelling story that held my interest from the start. A deal of sadness in everyone’s life. Very interesting that all characters had markedly changed by close of the book. (My main sympathy was with the nameless dog).
I have found myself recommending it to others.

Evan also sent email comments, which may or may not have been influenced by his cold:

The characters were interesting, if not always convincing, the atmosphere was well built up, and I was ready for something dramatic, when all of a sudden nothing much happened! I was left wondering why I bothered.

MoominAnd finally… yes, Tove Jansson is also known for writing and illustrating the “Moomin” childrens’ books. It’s tempting to speculate how much of her own character might be reflected in Anna Aemelin.

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