Review: Sculptor’s Daughter by Tove Jansson

WSOY, 2014/1968

Tove Jansson’s first book for adults was a memoir, capturing afresh the enchantments and fears of her Helsinki childhood. Restored to its original form, Sculptor’s Daughter gives us a glimpse of the mysteries of winter ice, the bonhomie of balalaika parties, and the vastness of Christmas viewed from beneath the tree.

As part of my 2014 resolution to read at least 4 adult books written by Tove Jansson, I picked up her novel, Sculptor’s Daughter, which is a highly biographical collection of short stories. The narrator in these stories is a young girl, presumably Tove herself, and feature several characters in passing. The stories include scenes of everyday life, such playing games with friends, making adventurous journeys, spending time with busy parents, and so on. The vivid imagination of a child is well expressed in the book and reading these short stories felt like I was going through my own memories from childhood. For example the story of ice skating outside, with the darkness that surrounds the rink and the dark ice, I could sense the mixed feelings of both terror and excitement.

The language and writing style are charming, and the stories heart warming. Jansson immerses herself into the world of a child, and it is easy to see why she begun to write children’s fiction. In fact, there were several scenes that reminded me of similar scenes or places in the Moomin books. Sculptor’s Daughter was published when Jansson was already well known for her Moomin books, and it was her first attempt to branch out of the box of writing only ‘Moomin fiction’. The atmosphere of the book is similar to that of the Moomin books, but the stories feature also the negative feelings, jealousy and disappointments that are part of growing up.

Nevertheless, I did not find Sculptor’s Daughter as enchanting as The Summer Book. Although all of the stories were beautifully written, I found some to lack certain depth or insight that was found in the previous book. However, Sculptor’s Daughter is a great adult novel debut, and a good introduction to Jansson’s style of writing. I’d recommend it especially to fans of the Moomin books.



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