Imagine winter, in an isolated small community. Snowbound. You really can feel it.
And imagine two women.
First there is Anna, elderly and living alone in her old family home. She is the creator of a successful series of illustrated books for children. In the winter she stays quietly at home, attending to the correspondence she receives from her young readers. And when spring comes she goes out into the forest and paints pictures of the scenery, adorned with floral rabbits. She is content with her simple quiet life.
But Katri is not content. She lives with her younger brother and their dog and she is an outsider. She is respected, and her neighbours often sought her assistance with forms and paperwork, but they found no warmth and she was not liked.
Katri visits Anna’s “rabbit house” she sets her heart on living there. And she begins to work her way in. She fakes a break-in to convince Anna that she needs somebody to live their with her. She goes through Anna’s chaotic paperwork, and shows her that she is being cheated. By local shopkeepers. By her agent.
Katri is indispensible. Or is she? Katri is in control. Or is she?
True Deceiver is a quiet, subtle story. There is no big drama, but the tension is palpable, through small, telling incidents and changing, evolving relationships. Much more interesting. Fascinating, in fact.
And the story works so well because it is quite perfectly executed. Every word, every sentence is perfect. And Tove Jansson knows just where to leave gaps, to make you think, to let you wonder.
And her understanding of human behaviour, of how we maybe lie even to ourselves is extraordinary.
A small book, but oh so striking.
Translated by Thomas Teal