Winter but not in Moomin land

Tove Jansson and cat
I don't know why it was, but I never got into the Moomins as a child. I very occasionally saw a Moomin cartoon, but never read any of the books; and knew nothing about the author, Tove Jansson. Recently purely by chance I saw a review of Jansson's The summer book, a well reviewed book for an adult audience. And then (as if by magic!) I happened to be in my local library, and saw her book of short writings for adults A winter book. I couldn't resist...

I must say I wasn't blown away by it. It didn't grip me the way it clearly did many of its reviewers, who evidently truly loved the book. But there was much to be charmed by in this book of short stories. It was endearing, beautifully written, and even surprisingly moving containing seven excerpts from her short story semi-autobiographical collection The sculptor's daughter, along with a further six writings from later in her life.

Much of The sculptor's daughter was lovely. I especially enjoyed reading some of her early memories of living in a Bohemian arty Scandinavian household, and the beautiful tale of the little girl, the iceberg, and the torch, which reminded me of the enchanting short French film The red balloon.

Equally moving, but very different was the final work in the volume. A beautiful tale of old age, and of saying goodbye, as Tove Jansson and her partner prepare to say farewell to the island that has been a huge part of their lives. It's a lovely tale, poignant, but also uplifting.

I wasn't wowed by these stories, but I did get a sense of why so many readers loved Tove Jansson, who comes across as an enormously nice person - feisty, funny, fearless, with a great warmth to her. It also made me want to read lots more of her work - surely what any writer wants. These may have been winter tales but the radiance of summer flows across them. An enchanting read for the gloomy autumn days.


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