A Winter Book by Tove Jansson

Works like 'The Iceberg', are as eerie and magical as the Northern Lights.

Book Review by Sean Michaels | 12 Dec 2006
Book title: A Winter Book
Author: Tove Jansson
Tove Jansson was an unlikely literary star: her Moomins were melancholy hippopotamus-like characters, her books were written in Finnish, and the happiest times of her life were spent on an isolated rock in the Pellinki islands. And yet despite – or because of – all this, Jansson's children's books are among the most beautiful works of the Twentieth Century. Her adult fiction is much less well known, largely out of print or untranslated. A Winter Book is therefore a welcome anthology of Jansson's "best loved" short fiction, edited and introduced by Ali Smith. There are no Moomins, no Hattifatteners, but as Philip Pullman remarks in an afterword these are stories "tough as good rope", autobiographical tales with all of the stubbornness, wonder and loneliness that characterised her fantastical characters. 'Parties', for example, is all glow and laughter – a splendid depiction of the parties hosted by Jansson's sculptor father and illustrator mother, with a hint of the bittersweet. The same is true of 'Annie', where Jansson writes about the family servant with the same name; a friend with "hair like luscious rough grass". Stories like 'The Squirrel' meanwhile are unflinching sketches of the author's old age, and a fine counterbalance to works like 'The Iceberg', as eerie and magical as the Northern Lights. Though some pieces are not nearly so strong, A Winter Book is in large part exceptional: works that speak of all the richness of Jansson's inner life. [Sean Michaels]
A Winter Book is published by Sort Of Books.
Release Date: Out now. Cover Price £6.99.