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Book Club Reviews

Becky Lees, Arnolfini Bookshop Assistant, reviews February’s read - ‘A Winter Book’ by Tove Jansson - on behalf of the Arnolfini Book Club…

"Tove Jansson makes the everyday magical in this collection of short stories. Whether it is the way she has woven her childhood memories into glorious, shining tales or the creative glimpse she gives us of letters and messages she receives.

The narrative perspective of many of these stories is that of a child which creates many light hearted and delightful moments. In the story ‘German Measles’ we are reminded of the misery of childhood sickness, the need for attention and understanding and the ensuing tantrum that follows. Whilst ‘Flying’ expands the common dream we may have all had once upon a time, by not only the dreamer taking flight but her enabling others to fill the skies too. The way that the narrator tries to find wisdom in adult things that aren’t all that wise in ‘Parties’ is something all of us smiled at.

A theme running through the whole publication is that of the introvert. The narrator, whether Jansson as a young child or another of her characters, always seems to be at a distance from other people. This is especially true in ‘The Squirrel’ where a woman creates a whole saga between herself and the animal. In most of the texts, the main character is more connected to nature – whether it is the stone being rolled and held in the first story, the sea that surrounds us in ‘The Boat and Me’ or the iceberg that is illuminated as it drifts away with a torch at its centre. However, at the end of the collection, Jansson tells a story where the narrator decides to leave the island. It is a story of sadness and ageing but also companionship – Tooti is there with our beloved narrator, someone who can share in the connection with nature but creates a new connection too.

What is perhaps most enjoyable in this collection, is the snapshot we get of Jansson’s life – her memories and feelings, her representation of different family members, the nature that surrounded most of her life. We were all left with a thirst for more – we want to know more about Jansson’s life, more about her work and her family. We want to read more of her short stories and the Moomin tales, which most of us knew of but hadn’t read previously. And that is the beauty of a book club – the introduction of a new author, the selection of a book we would not have found alone and the shared love of what we read and what we want to read next."

- Becky Lees 

Join us on the 23rd of March to discuss ‘The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman’ by Denis Theriault - find out more by joining the Arnolfini Bookclub Facebook group.

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