This is, as Ali Smith says in her introduction, an "unassuming, unexpected, powerful piece of work." Within this novel Jansson tackles, in a mood of dark existentialism, the Scandinavian winter. The novel is set in a tiny hamlet bounded by a vast lake and a deep, dark forest. Anna Armelin lives in the forest in what is known as "The Rabbit House", inside the walls have washed to a faded blue, outside the children build tunnels in the snow that only they can traverse. In a sense, every house is under siege to the children, but in particular they target Katri and her brother Mats, who, along with Anna Armelin, are at the core of this story. The village is a hotbed of vicious gossip, the main subject being Katri, who is clever and sharp, who rarely smiles and never laughs and who is accompanied everywhere by her huge Alsatian dog.
The events of this novel are not earth-shaking, but one becomes embroiled in the negotiations between brother and sister and selected members of the tiny community, as Katri struggles to fulfil her dream. The writing is brilliantly stark and cool (in both senses of the word) as relationships are forged and broken apart in this beautifully crafted and compulsively readable novel.