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Waterstone's Waterman's

Late yesterday afternoon I was mooching my way down Kensington High Street when I thought I may as well mooch around inside Waterstone's. This was despite the fact that I already had an unread book (Campbell's The Semamtics of Murder) in my bag. I was drawn to Tove Jansson's novel The Great Deceiver by the name, then the cover, then the back cover, then the first page. All standard criteria for judging a book. Tove Jansson has a devoted readership, and had built up particular acclaim for The Moomins. Despite my having a penchant for sparse prose coupled with snowy settings depicting solitude, preferably with the Scandinavian brand of melancholy, this was my first Jansson. I wasn't disappointed. It tells the story of Katri Kling, a yellow-eyed young woman who has bright up her younger brother, Mats. Katri has the position - popular in literature - as the truth-teller, a role that necessitates being on the outside. With it goes an absolutist awareness of motives - one's own and others. This awareness is played with aplomb by Katri, which serves to place her and Mats at the heart of Anne's life, a children's book illustrator who has lived a near-solitary life in what the villagers call 'the rabbit house'. Katri makes herself indispensable - and achieves a long planned nautical mission for Mats. Talking of solitude segues nicely into How I Ended Last Summer, a Russian film that I returned to Waterman's this evening to see. It is a story set in a meteorological outpost in the Arctic. The permanent data recorder, Sergei, is seemingly burdened with a student, Pasha, who is stationed there for the summer. There is a quiet, yet glaring clash of values and attitudes between the two men. Pasha takes an important message over the radio for Sergei, which is then just as bungled as the data Pasha has been entrusted to deliver whilst Sergei heads off in his boat to catch arctic trout. It is a study in human frailty and, for Sergei at least, the need for frozen solitude. In this respect it reminded me of Georgina Harding's novel The Solitude of Thomas Cave. The cinematography was outstanding, capturing the distinct lights on this unique setting. It is a slow film. The pace sags somewhat towards the middle, but, along with the developments, this speeds up as we reach beyond midway.

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