Kangastus 38 (Mirage 38) by Kjell Westö digs deep into the human nature in 1930s Helsinki. At the center of the story are Matilda, an office worker with a mysterious past, and Thune, a lawyer and her boss.
Thune isn’t sure what to make of his new office worker, Mrs. Wiik or Matilda as she wants to be called. She seems quiet, punctual and efficient, and does her work amazingly well, but something obviously haunts her.
But Thune has other things going on in his life too. His wife has left him for his best friend, a friend who’s part of the Keskiviikkoklubi (Wednesday Club) where a group of six men gather to discuss politics. Thune can’t avoid meeting him, at times doesn’t even want to, but it doesn’t exactly make their interactions easy.
Milja Matilda Wiik, the new office worker for Mr. Thune, tries to keep her distance to people. She likes her new job but she couldn’t have imagined what she’ll face in it. Without expecting it, she runs into a person, a ghost even, from her past. He doesn’t recognize her but she remembers everything. But this time, she has a plan. Or more accurately, Miss-Milja has a plan.
The story moves forward through these two characters, regularly taking a look at the past through their memories. It has a leisurely pace but it held my interest. There isn’t a clear, over-aching plot in the book; it merely follows the main characters and how life throws them into unexpected directions.
There are many characters with their own personalities and political views, painting a good picture of Helsinki of that time. You can feel the city around you as you read. In a country where civil war has ended barely twenty years ago, people are still divided – if not openly then at least in their silent opinions. The concept of justice, or more like injustice, is present throughout the book.
This might not be the most exciting book you’ll ever read but it describes human nature in a way I found very captivating. I’d definitely recommend this.