Leaving Moominvalley

6 Mar

I’ve mentioned before my fondness for the writing of Tove Jansson. As a child, I loved the Moomin books with their strange characters and evocative landscapes. They played a large part in igniting my passion for reading. Later on, I discovered the memoir and fiction that she’d written for adults. Initially, there were only two books in translation, both of which I tracked down in second hand book stores. Since then, Sort Of Books has been publishing her back catalogue and I’ve been buying and reading them with a great sense of anticipation. Only once have I been even vaguely disappointed. The True Deceiver, for example, is a superb novel, dealing in part with the disappointment experienced by the author as a serious artist dismissed as a ‘mere’ children’s writer. At its best, Janssons’s adult fiction is the equal of her stories for children.

I’ve reached a milestone of sorts (sort of?). Having read all of the Moomin books several times over as a child, I’ve had the pleasure of reading them again as an adult to my children at bedtime. There are only one or two evenings a week when I’m able to read to them, so we get through books slowly. Our journey through Moominland seems to have been an ever-present feature of their childhood. We started reading Comet in Moominland, the first of the eight Moomin books widely available in English, way back in 2010. As we came to the final pages of Moominvalley in November last week, I was overcome by a sense of melancholy (Jansson loved that word). Like the Moomins themselves, we’ve left Moominvalley behind. I no longer have an excuse for partaking in the Moomins’ world and I’ve been forced to recognise how quickly my children are growing up. Now we have to decide what we’re going to read next. And then the day will come when they don’t want to be read to any more.

05-10-2013 17;54;09

This photo has nothing whatsoever to do with Moominland except that it’s taken in Scandanavia with my two great friends from university days

Aside from any indirect effect Jansson’s crystalline prose may have had on my own writing, I’ve previously managed to sneak reference to the Moomins into my work (follow this link for an excerpt). And then there’s the epic poem posted on this site. I’ve made some obscure allusions to them in my work-in-progress. But the question of what to read next to my children still remains. We’ve considered the Narnia books, but having been read a couple at their mother’s house, they weren’t convinced. Oz is also a possibility. Which magical world to visit next, then? I may just have to write something for them myself…

All text and images © PSR 2014

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8 Responses to “Leaving Moominvalley”

  1. Mari Biella March 6, 2014 at 5:55 pm #

    I enjoyed the Moomins when I was young, but I haven’t yet read any of Jansson’s books for adults. I’ll have to check them out…

    You should definitely try writing some children’s fiction yourself. I’ve a feeling it would be a useful writing exercise, apart from anything; I think it’s probably harder to write than adult fiction in many ways (not that I’ve ever tried it myself). And children are notoriously difficult to please, too!

  2. Paul Sutton Reeves March 6, 2014 at 7:40 pm #

    Hi Mari and thanks for commenting.

    You should definitely give Janssons’s adult fiction/memoir a try. ‘Sculptor’s Daughter’ and ‘The Summer Book’ are truly beautiful books.

    I have told my children tales, I just haven’t committed them to paper. It just might happen!

  3. masgautsen March 6, 2014 at 8:37 pm #

    I adore the Moomins. Tove Janson’s books for children are amazing. I have yet to read her works for adults, but they are on my “should-read”-list.

    You should try writing some children’s fiction for your kids. You seem to have the creativity required. And imagine how great it will be for your kids when they grow older!

  4. Paul Sutton Reeves March 6, 2014 at 8:53 pm #

    Hi Maja and thanks for commenting.

    The Moomins are wonderful. I’m going to miss them. I may well have a go at writing a story or two for my children. And I’d recommend trying out the three adult’s books that I mentioned. You could even read them in the original Swedish, I suspect…

  5. www.laurensapala.com March 6, 2014 at 10:39 pm #

    My favorite children’s book is The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, but not sure if it’s exactly “children’s” or “young adult”? Whatever it is, it is fantastic.

  6. Paul Sutton Reeves March 7, 2014 at 6:53 am #

    Hi Lauren and thanks for your comment.

    I don’t know that one! We shall have to investigate…

  7. Ed November 24, 2014 at 3:39 am #

    Possibly there is nowhere to go but down, after starting out with the Moomin books! But you might try ‘The Hobbit’, being almost on a par with them, which depicts another world populated with exotic characters and creatures.

    • Paul Sutton Reeves November 24, 2014 at 9:06 am #

      Hi Ed and thanks for your suggestion. ‘The Hobbit’ had been under consideration. I enjoyed it as a child, though I do think Tolkien’s massively overrated if considered an author of adult fiction. My son was keen but my daughter doesn’t like books about killing and battles…

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