The Pequod Review:
The True Deceiver is one of Tove Jansson’s darkest and most unsettling novels. Set in a small northern village, the book is the story of two apparently very different women: Katri (a coldly rational outcast who lives with her “simple” younger brother) and Anna (an elderly artist highly respected by her fellow townspeople). But when Anna has something Katri wants, they each reveal extraordinary levels of deception — and prove deep down to be similar in important ways.
Jansson’s prose is once again simple and straightforward, but this time with an edge:
She could easily have remarked on the heavy skiing weather, or asked how he could even see the road, or complained about the town not getting its ploughs out — anything at all to show interest or pretend to show interest, the way people talk to make things a little more pleasant — but no, not Katri Kling. There she stood squinting through her cigarette smoke, her black hair like a mane shrouding her face as she leaned over the table.
This exchange was quiet and hostile, like two wary animals circling for an attack.
If she really were what she pretends to be, everything would have been wrong, everything I did and said and tried to get her to see, it would all have been monstrous. But her innocence left her a very long time ago, and she never noticed. She eats only grass, but she has a meat eater’s heart. And she doesn’t know it, and no one has told her. Maybe they don’t care enough about her to take the chance. What should I do? How many different truths are there, and what justifies them? What a person believes? What a person accomplishes? Self-deception? Is it only the result that counts? I no longer know.
In her own way, Jansson has created a book that is just as impressive as The Summer Book — but darker, colder and more atmospheric.