It’s the start of a luminous Scandinavian summer, and Elsa, the matriarch of an eminent Helsinki family, is dying.
Her family members gather around to support her, but their hidden struggles come, too. There’s Elsa’s granddaughter Anna, lost in her own world and concealing an unhappy affair that will not heal; Martti, Elsa’s loving husband, whose dreams are haunted by the spectre of another woman; and Elsa’s adult daughter Eleonoora, anxiously trying to deal with her mother’s illness. As Elsa’s existence becomes more fragile, the anchors of Eleonoora’s childhood memories begin to slip away, and the foundations upon which the family has built its life for forty years start to shift.
One afternoon, Anna discovers a secret that goes to the very heart of her family — a secret that takes her back to the restlessness and change of the 1960s, a Europe in the throes of a social revolution, and a stranger named Eeva who entered her family’s lives, changing them forever.
As Eeva’s story unfolds, Anna discovers a young woman who mirrors herself in many ways, and whose life illustrates both the danger of giving oneself up too completely to love and the necessity of doing so in order to truly live.
Enthralling and beautifully drawn, True charts the experiences of three generations as they try to come to terms with a memory long repressed, and explores the mercy and tenderness that can come from a lie. Ultimately it asks: when we can never really know the people we love, how do we try to be true?
‘Pulkkinen combines virtuosic prose with brilliant storytelling technique. This is an omniscient, highly imaginative, individualised voice, in which events filter through something more than the speakers’ consciousness … Riikka Pulkkinen’s novel is some of the finest literature I have ever read.’
Raisa Mattila, Helsingin Sanomat
View all reviews
‘True is a wise and beautiful book about love, sadness, and death.’
‘A brilliant work, a read you hope will never end.’
'Pulkkinen writes lyrically, but without fanfare, of love and loss, with an instructive eye for human frailty and the stark, luminous Finnish landscape … at its best this is a wise and poetic novel, steeped in romance and regret, tracing the profound ways in which we can be haunted by the past.'
Cameron Woodhead, The Age
‘True is a story of family, secrets, lies and love that is both tender and memorable without ever becoming saccharine or sentimental. Pulkkinen's prose is spare and efficient, but never detached, cold or clinical. Lola M Rogers' translation is superb and surely one of the reasons this novel is such an engrossing, memorable read.’
The Big Issue
‘True is an exceptionally adroit description of loss and letting go, but also, in the end, of asking for and granting forgiveness.’
‘A haunting, mesmerisingly written novel about how one tragedy can inform another, how memory can both hide and reveal, and how love just might be the only thing to make the world true. So shatteringly good, I felt stunned.’
Caroline Leavitt, New York Times best-selling author of Pictures of You