Oh boy, what a year 2014 has been. To think that I began the year with an idea of taking part in celebrating Tove Jansson’s cetenary and ended up falling in love with her short stories is incredible. I can’t believe that it has only been a year since I re-discovered Jansson. After reading the wonderful Tove Jansson biography by Boel Westin, I challenged myself to read at least 4 books by her that weren’t part of her Moomin series. I completed the challenge already in November, so here’s a short wrap-up of the books that I read this year, with links to the actual reviews. Overall, I’m very pleased with my success in the challenge, and I plan on continuing to read all of Jansson’s works. After that I can always go back to the Moomins and start all over.
I read my first book in the challenge already in February, and that was The Summer Book. Probably one of her most famous and best-loved adult fiction novels, The Summer Book narrates the summer adventures that a grandmother and her granddaughter share on a small coastal island. Heartwarming and insightful, the small vignettes shine light to the great and small differences between different generations and life in general. This book captures summer from the first warm day to the moment when leaves turn yellow, and it is definitely a book that I will re-read in the future.
I gave The Summer Book 4/5 stars.
Next up I read Sculptor’s Daughter, which I finished in May. Sculptor’s Daughter was Jansson’s first short story collection aimed at adult audiences and it is said to be autobiographical. The stories are told from the perspective of a young girl and it shows her view of life, the small details that matter the most and the wonders of imagination. Endearing and sometimes older than her years, this collection definitely shows Jansson diverting from the Moomins but still carries many elements and characters that are similar.
I gave Sculptor’s Daughter 3.5/5 stars.
The third book for the challenge was the untranslated Letters from Klara and Other Stories, which I read in July. In contrast to the two books I had read before, Letters to Klara was one of Jansson’s last short story collections and it clearly shows how her style has matured and how she has perfected the simplistic beauty in the narration. All of the stories follow different characters – some reminiscent of characters in earlier collections – and in different stages of life. It wasn’t perhaps as cohesive as The Summer Book, but the individual stories themselves stood on their own two feet.
Thus far my favourite collection from Jansson, I gave Letters from Klara and Other Stories 4.5/5 stars.
And as the last book for my challenge, I read Fair Play in November. Fair Play follows the relationship of two independent women. Both are artists but with different approaches to creating art and working. The stories follow their everyday life from travels and dinners to shared movie nights, and focuses on trust and equality in a relationship as well as the necessary quarrels. The relationship of the two female characters resembles that of Jansson’s own relationship with her partner Tuulikki Pietilä, and it is hard not to read this as an autobiographical work.
I gave Fair Play 3.5/5 stars.