Friday, October 10, 2008

Snow - Tove Jansson

Tove Jansson is well known as an extraordinary woman, and writer of children’s stories. Most famous for her stories of the Moomins, Jansson reached more recent acclaim after her death, with the publication of two collections of short stories, The Summer Book and The Winter Book. I remember loving the Moomin stories as a child, and wanted to select one of Jansson’s short stories for this challenge. I selected Snow as I was drawn to the simple title, I knew nothing of the content of any of these stories.

Snow appears to be a simple story. A child and her mother have moved to a strange old house, which is permeated with the memory of the previous family. The mother is relaxed and settled there, finding peace from the outside world. The child however, finds no comfort, becoming obsessed with the falling snow outside, and the prospect of being buried forever in a terrifying snow drift. I said appears to be a simple story. Snow is really about the unfamiliar, about resisting change and the unknown, but about finding hope in family, in companionship. Ali Smith, who selected this collection, described A Winter Book as "Beautifully crafted and deceptively simple-seeming, these stories are pieces of scattered light."

Jansson's writing itself is beautiful. Much of her work is semi-autobiographical, and this is understandable when reading her descriptions of the empty rooms, of the sounds and light, and about a child's reaction to the unknown, the silence, the resignation. You can feel the child's loneliness and confusion, being removed from her own life and deposited in a large, empty, old house.

"If you stood in the furthest room, you could see through all the other rooms and it made you feel sad; it was like a train ready to leave with its lights shining over the platform. The last room was dark like the inside of a tunnel except for a faint glow in the gold frames and the mirror which was hung too high on the wall. All the lamps were soft and misty and made a very tiny circle of light. And when you ran you made no noise."

Since reading Snow, I have read more about Tove Jansson, a fascinating woman of nature, who lived her life in the towns and islands of Finland, living well into old age, and her work is permeated with her life experiences and love of the natural world around her. Reviews of other stories in A Winter Book are heaped with praise, and thus I will certainly be reading the rest of this and other collections. I will however be waiting for the appropriate season for the rest of this wintry collection, as I think the glorious sun beaming down on me while reading about Snow did hamper my enjoyment just a little! Definitely one for being curled up in front of the fire, with snow falling outside.

1 comment:

antonymous said...

I read this yesterday - its a wonderful word picture of a childs wild imagination