Monday, April 11, 2011

A Winter Book by Tove Jansson

A Winter Book:  Selected Stories by Tove Jansson is so hard to pigeon-hole.  On the surface, it is a collection of short stories.  If I could just leave it there, that would be an adequate description of this book that begins with stories written mostly from a child’s perspective and which later turns into the reflections and experiences of an older woman.  However, there is so much more going on in these stories.

For one thing, there is an element of memoir, implied by the fact that there are photographs sprinkled throughout, some of the author herself as a child and older woman.  There are even the occasional footnotes to say who the person is “in real life” and more.  So it is obvious that these stories are inspired by real life and that some of the people described formed a core in the author’s own experiences.

But then there is this magical quality to the stories, an almost mythic or even allegorical implication in some of the events.  A silver ball, a squirrel, the ocean itself . . . all take on a life of their own and have a meaning that elevates these stories from the purely memoir to something much more.

What that “much more” is I can’t quite put my finger on.  I rarely read a collection of stories that I immediately want to share, discuss, and reread but this book is so evocative without being definitive.  Not unlike that sentence . . . I really don’t know what to say except that I really like this book and I am going to pass it on to my mother and I am absolutely going to buy more books by Jansson because I am unable to get certain images from this one book out of my head.  Odds are, you’ll see more reviews from me on books by this author.  She’s delicious but probably an acquired taste and not lightly recommended although I adored what I read.

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