The True Deceiver

Now I’m in two minds about The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson. Yes, its author is the woman who wrote the Moomintroll fantasies. There’s a Moomin hanging from the back window of Klaus the Knaus, my motorhome. The girl in the check in office of Brittany Ferries heartily approved when we were on our way to Spain. Those little plump creatures feature on the cover of my little book of ‘gratefulness that I write in most days. Oh! I’ve also programmed my smartwatch so that Moomintroll, my favourite character is the wallpaper. It doesn’t matter that it makes it hard to read the time. As you might have gathered I’m a bit of a fan.

Anyway….in the Sixties Tove Jansson wrote a number of adult fiction books. I was given my copy by my friend, Mr Metrosexual. He’d found it in a charity shop in town and passed it on. ‘I really enjoyed it. It’s very Scandi Noir.’ I was quite excited about the gift.

The main character is Katri, a yellow eyed woman with a nameless dog. She, fakes a robbery at the house of Anna Aemalin, a children’s illustrator who lives in her village. Katri, moves in with her brother Mats and the wolfhound, on the premise of protecting the older woman. As the story unfolds each of these women struggle to exert and retain control over each other.

As you might have gathered this is not a ‘they all lived happily ever after’ kind of book. The characters are psychologically complex and both women turn out to have both kind and conniving traits. I found myself trying to fathom out whether many of the characters in the book were mentally sound. I frequently changed my mind about the diagnoses that I gave them. ‘Does Anna have dementia?’ I asked Mr Metrosexual halfway through. ‘I didn’t get that impression.’ he replied. I’d formed a different opinion by the end of the tale too.

Yes the book is beautifully written and the characterisation is second to none. It has attracted many favourable reviews. As you can see from its cover Ruth Rendell is a big fan. I read it to the end and indeed discussed it on an ongoing basis. It must have held my attention. But there’s a but. ‘When does the story actually get going?’ I asked Mr Metrosexual during that midway conversation. ‘Well it doesn’t really.’ was his answer. And therein lies my conundrum.

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