50. Finn Family Moomintroll, Tove Jansson (1948)

I love all the Moomin novels, but this was the first one I read as a child and it will always have a special place in my heart. Also, it contains some of Jansson’s best ideas – the magical transforming hat, the King’s Ruby, the island of the Hattifatteners and, crucially, a major role for the Groke, my favourite secondary character. I particularly like the scene in which the dictionary falls into the hat, and the words come out as peculiar little creatures. I come back to the Moomin books time and time again (I’d guess that I read the entire canon every couple of years, interspersed with the Narnia books) because they’re extremely comforting, they connect me to my childhood and they still amuse, inspire and enchant me. Jansson’s illustrations are as great as her writing, and I never tire of seeing them, even on the ubiquitous merchandising. Sometimes I wonder about the quality of the translations – and if anything was going to inspire me to learn Swedish, it would be to read them in the original. I have enjoyed Jansson’s adult books, but nothing touches the Moomins.

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2 Comments

Filed under My top 100 novels

2 responses to “50. Finn Family Moomintroll, Tove Jansson (1948)

  1. David Benedict

    I echo every single word of this including the fact that this was my first Moomin book. I also have a particularly soft spot for Comet in Moominland when the Hattifatteners get caught up in an electric storm but that, as they say, is another story. It came as no suprirse to me when, in later life, I discovered that Tove Jansson was a lesbian. Her writing captures the singularity of growing up gay, feeling different or, at least, at one remove from one’s family, however loving. No-one, but no-one does thoughtfulness and melancholia like she does. Her prose is matchlessly evocative. And funny.

  2. Oh good. Comet was nearly the choice on this list. Totally obsessed by Hattifatteners. And I agree about the ‘penny dropping’ moment in adult life. I think Midwinter captures that particularly well.

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