I’m staying in Moominvalley, which is a pretty great place to be in right now. Admittedly in the novel I just finished, Comet in Moominland, the valley had its own problems with a comet heading right towards them, but other than the slight question of impending doom, things were as they used to be.
Mumin (Moomin) is once again the protagonist and together with Sniff he sets out on the dangerous journey towards the observatory to learn all they can about the coming disaster. Along the way they pick up a few new friends, Snusmumriken (Snufkin), Snorkfröken (Snork maiden) and Snorken (Snork), who all make their first appearances in this story. I especially enjoy Snusmumriken, a care-free tramp and Mumin’s best friend, who always makes me long for a few nights in the woods.
Comet in Moominland is the second of the Moomin books and thus has less of the beautifully melancholy feeling prevalent in the later books, but what it has instead is a strong feeling of adventure and a promise that no matter how dark it looks, in the end all will be well.
Troubling times calls for comforting books and few things are as comforting Tove Jansson‘s Moomin family. In addition the novel I selected for a reread, Finn Family Moomintroll (original title: Trollkarlens hatt, Direct translation: The Magician’s Hat) is probably the most uplifting of them.
In The Magician’s Hat (I really don’t like the English title…) we follow the Moomin family and their friends during their summer adventures, adventures that are getting even more magical by a certain influence from a strange black hat. While all the Moomin novels have at least a touch of melancholy in them, this one is a distinctly happy story.
In general I like the darker Moomin stories better, especially Moominland midwinter and Tales from Moominvalley. It is not even Jansson’s best summer novel, her The Summer Book is one of my favourite books in all categories. Still, out of the lighter Moomin books, this one is probably my favourite. I enjoy the overarching story-arc around the magical hat and reading it just gives me the feeling of a happy summer holiday.
I thought that the spring was already here. The wind was warm, the sun shone and the snow only held on the higher mountains and in the most shaded spots. I should have known better, two days of heavy snowfall later and the landscape is white again (the photo was taken this morning). To get back into proper winter mood I decided to reread Moominland Midwinter (Trollvinter), my favourite winter book and one of the best Moomin books.
Moomin trolls are of course summer creatures who normally hibernate through the winters, but one year Moomin accidentally wakes up early from his winter sleep and thus becomes the first moomin troll to experience a winter. In moominland Midwinter we get to follow his explorations of the strange, cold, dark, lonely world he has awaken to. It is a bit of a bildunsgroman, with Moomin learning to adapt to and eventually enjoy his new environment, and a beautiful portrait of one of my favourite seasons. Perhaps the Nordic countries should just hand it to every immigrant from a warmer country to let them know what to expect?
As it is a Moomin book it is also filled with Tove Jansson‘s amazing characters. I know that it was first published in 1957 but I am sure that I have met most of them and some obvious relatives of Hemulen come by our summer cabin every year.
Moominpappa at sea by Tove Jansson is the second to last Moomin novel and takes place at the same time as Moominvalley in November.
It starts as the Moominpappa is going through a bit of a life-crisis. Things are getting a bit too comfortable and he starts to suspect that his family doesn’t really need him anymore. The solution is obviously for the family to leave their comfortable home and move to an isolated lighthouse where the father can prove his pioneer spirit (I want to blame Moominpappa for this but while it may have been his dream it was actually Moominmamma who decided it).
The result is a melancholy story about a family growing apart from each other, carried by Jansson’s amazing ability to write characters and scenes that feel absolutely true, although centred around a family of Moomintrolls.
While all Moomin novels have a touch of melancholy it is more dominant in the two last ones. In some ways I feel that the earlier Moomin novels are children’s novels that can be read by adults, while these last two are adult’s novels that can be read by children.
In October I finished another novel from my Classics club reading list, Moominvalley in November by Tove Jansson. All I had left to do was to write a review, ideally post it during November considering its theme, and go on to other novels. Unfortunately I got stuck, November is already gone, and I still haven’t written that review.
It was not really writing the review that was the problem, I just had too much other things going on, but by now I think that the wisest course of action is to write something, anything, and move on.
So what can I say about it? Well, it was good, melancholy and beautiful, like Jansson almost always is. It is the last books about the Moomins and the Moomin family is not at home. Instead we meet some of the supporting cast from the other books, people who have all come to depend on the Moomin family’s presence and struggle to fill the void on their own.
All the Moomin books can be enjoyed by both adults and children but this one may be especially relevant for adults. I really liked it and do recommend it, but only if you have read most of the other Moomin books first, as it also act as a farewell to Moomin valley.
It’s still only May but the temperatures for the last few days have equalled those of the height of summer. Fortunately I got to spend a few days by the sea, lying on a warm rock in the sun, eating (imported) raspberries and reading.
With summer thus officially here it is time to collect my summer reading. Most important is The Summer Book (Sommarboken) by Tove Jansson. In a series of loosely connected episodes we follow a young girl and an old grandmother through a summer on an island in the Finnish archipelago. Often funny and always down to earth, it paints a beautiful but melancholy picture of life and summers. I try to re-read it every summer.
If one book by Tove Jansson is not enough I’m happy to continue with Finn Family Moomintroll (Trollkarlens hatt) which follows the summer adventures of the Moomin family.
Otherwise my summer reading tend to be dominated by lazy reads. Battered copies of cosy crime novels (mostly Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayers), suitable for reading in the shadow under a tree or during a long journey.
Best combined with: Ice-cold elderflower cordial and fresh, sun-warmed, berries.