Lies, social climbing and time travel
July 12, 2011
I’ve been mulling over these novels via paper scraps that are scattered on my desk, torn from review publications and other sources. I haven’t read them, but share these intriguing books as ones I’ve got my eye on.
The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson; translated from the Swedish by Thomas Teal
Winner of The Best Translated Book Award 2011, this novel is set in a frosty Scandinavian winter, which just might take the edge off the summer heat now blasting us. It tells the story of two very different women in a fishing village who end up living together: one (Katri) an outcast devoted to her simple-minded brother and attached to her unnamed dog; the other (Anna), a respected children’s book illustrator, who consumes herself in her work. Anna opens her life to the forthright but deceptive Katri, unaware of Katri’s true purpose focused on her brother and the elderly woman’s money. Originally published in 1982, this edition is the first appearance of The True Deceiver in an English translation. Prose is described as spare and direct. From the publisher’s website: “Deception—the lies we tell ourselves and the lies we tell others—is the subject of this, Tove Jansson’s most unnerving and unpredictable novel.”
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
A new novel by a first-timer due to be published in another week or so about a 25-year-old Wall Street secretary and a chance encounter that changes her life, giving her access to high society. The era is pre-World War II Manhattan (1938) and, as declared on the publisher’s website, “turns a Jamesian eye on how spur of the moment decisions define life for decades to come. A love letter to a great American city at the end of the Depression … Towles evokes the ghosts of Fitzgerald, Capote, and McCarthy.” Forecasts I’ve read indicate the writing is exquisite, dialogue is quotable and the atmosphere so well created you feel like you’re there.
A Traveller in Time by Alison Uttley
A classic young adult fantasy first published in 1939. Protagonist Penelope Taberner Cameron is described in the book’s summary as “a solitary and sickly girl, a reader and a dreamer.” When she’s sent from her London home to spend time with relatives on a Derbyshire farm, Penelope finds herself going back and forth between the present and Elizabethan times — between the present-day farm family and the one that owned the Derbyshire farm during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Because the Elizabethan family is plotting to free Mary, Queen of Scots, from prison, Penelope’s got herself in a tricky situation. From the publisher’s website:
“To travel in time, Penelope discovers, is to be very much alone. And yet the slow recurrent rhythms of the natural world, beautifully captured by Alison Uttley, also speak of a greater ongoing life that transcends the passage of years.”
Listed for ages 8 to 14; however, it sounds like too good of a fantasy for just the young. Note: The Private Diaries of Alison Uttley edited by Denis Judd reveal Uttley (the author) to be, according to The Guardian, “a controlling, difficult woman who despised many people.” Might want to avoid that one. Could spoil the fantasy.