cover image The True Deceiver

The True Deceiver

Tove Jansson, , trans. from the Swedish by Thomas Teal. . New York Review Books, $14.95 (181pp) ISBN 978-1-59017-329-9

Originally published in 1982, this novel by Finnish writer Jansson (1914–2001) examines desire and deception among residents of a remote snowbound village. Known as “the witch” by the local children (and equally unpopular with their parents), black-haired, brutally honest Katri Kling cares only about her younger brother, Mats, whom the villagers consider slow. She keeps her distance from everyone else, aided by her unnamed German shepherd and her rejection of small talk. Meanwhile, Anna Aemelin, a reclusive and well-to-do children's book artist, occupies the largest house in the village—the town's only semblance of aristocracy—painting watercolors of flower-furred rabbits and reading adventure stories. In the hope of securing a future for Mats, Katri slowly but deliberately insinuates herself into Anna's solitary life, moving in before long and rousing the suspicion and jealousy of the townspeople. The strident battle of wills that ensues makes for an intimate portrait of two disparate outsiders; Jansson's keen insight into her characters' inner worlds will keep readers rooting for a proverbial (and literal) thaw. (Dec.)