It was a quiet spell at the local library where I volunteer when I picked up Tove Jansson’s ‘A Winter Book’. Many of you probably know Tove as the creator of the Moomin stories for children. My memories of the Moomins are hazy at best and based on the 1990’s cartoon version, but this book is most definitely for adults.
The Book is divided into three main parts; Part I: Snow, Part II: Flotsam and Jetsam and Part III: Travelling Light. Part I and II are told from a child’s perspective, whilst Part III is a collection of short stories written when Tove was between 60-80 years old.
An appreciation of the little things in life
What I liked most about the book was its sense of appreciat
ing the little things; Tove describes ‘a warm cottage full of morning light, herself sweeping and the friendly sound of coffee beginning to simmer’, the picking of the bird cherry flowers and the smell of grass in the summer.
Pieces of wisdom
The book is full of life-earned wisdom, from practical things such as sailing and taking care of fishing nets, as well as more general aspects of life such as:
‘Now I had to make up my mind and that’s an awful thing to do.’
‘Its difficult to tell why or how people cheer up and get the feeling they want to work’.
‘Yes I know its true, the memory has an unfortunate habit of working backwards at night and gnawing its way through everything without sparing the slightest detail.
‘There’s something special about a bar, don’t you think? A place for chance happenings, for possibilities to become reality, a refuge on the awkward route from should to must’.
‘Ones opportunities to feel ill at ease in life are countless, and I recognize them, they constantly return, each affliction in its own little compartment’.
What most touched me about the book
Having read the book once, quickly at the library, I then found it in my local charity shop and read it again, more slowly. It is one of those types of books that the sense of the book stays with you long after you have finished it. I found myself rather envying Tove and Tooti joyfully packing for their summer on the Island and the ability to live by the comings and goings of the tide, in line with nature. It made me think about all the STUFF we collect a human beings but whether we are, for all our carefully hoarded treasures, any happier than our ancestors who’s most pressing question was will I have enough to eat, will I have sex and will I have shelter, rather than whether they have the latest thing [insert latest car/gadget/kitchen/holiday etc.]
Over to you..
I implore you to read the book, if only to hear Tove’s unique writing style and no nonsense, pragmatic approach to life. My favourite story was the last one in the book, ‘Travelling Light’ detailing the jobs Tove and Tooti did before leaving the island for the last time and the final flying of the long forgotten kite.
Review of 'A Winter Book' on GoodReads.