One of the best book things ever has just happened to me. I discovered that the Moomin prose books are not the same stories as the Moomin comic strips. This means that there is a whole world of unknown Moomin that I can explore, and I can do it through the beautiful new hardback editions of four of the prose books just issued by Sort Of Books. This is the reader equivalent of buried treasure.
Moomintroll wakes up from his winter hibernation early, and is surrounded by his sleeping family. Feeling lonely, but also adventurous, he heads out to see what the winter world is like, and who he can find there. He makes new friends, and their insights are valuable: after Moomintroll and Too-ticky see the Northern Lights, Too-ticky notes, “I’m thinking about the aurora borealis. You can’t tell if it really does exist or if it just looks like existing. All things are so very uncertain, and that’s exactly what makes me feel reassured”. The gorgeous illustrations and fold out map (complete with Lonely Mountains and Grotto) complete the magic.
A long time fan of Jansson’s Summer Book, a novel for adults, I have found similar themes of kindness and adventure in her Moomin books (see Ali Smith on The Summer Book here). I agree absolutely with Philip Pullman when he writes: “Tove Jansson was a genius of a very subtle kind. These simple stories resonate with profound and complex emotions that are like nothing else in literature for children or adults”. I can vouch for the joy of reading them for the first time as an adult. These are books for every human. In case the books are not enough, I can also head to Dulwich Picture Gallery’s Tove Jansson exhibition.
There should be a word for the rare feeling that you get when reading a book that is new to you, but which you realise will be a favourite for the rest of your life. There isn’t one that I can think of, but this book would have occasioned it.