Moominland Midwinter

I have just finished reading this book about the Moomintrolls. I am a big fan of the white, fluffy creatures created by Finnish/Swedish author and illustrator, Tove Jansson- I have been to Moomin World in Finland (twice and I live in London), I have lots of cups, glasses and cutlery with Moomin designs (ostensibly for my children but more for my own appreciation) and my children have Moomin puzzles, Moomin beach towels and abbreviated/small children’s versions of the Moomin books (the poor things are going to be Moomined out by the time they reach their teens). But despite all this, I had only ever read one proper complete edition of a Moomin book.

This book was ‘Trollkarlens hat’ ,’Finn Family Moomin Troll in English. I enjoyed it but not enough to go immediately on to reading another one and it is now, several years later, that seeing ‘Trollvinter’ or ‘Moominland Midwinter’ in the book shop, I thought I would give the Moomin troll books another go.

I loved it! Finn Family Moomintroll was fun and fluffy with a little bit of magic- just as you would expect from the cuddly Moomin family. ‘Moominland Midwinter’ is more melancholic, contemplative and brooding but also very beautiful.

Moomintroll wakes up one day to find himself in the middle of winter, when normally all Moomins are hibernating; he is unable to get back to sleep and gets up to experience snow and real cold for the first time, meeting all sorts of creatures whom he has never previously come across.

The writing is very Nordic in feel, quite lyrical in parts and extremely evocative of winters in the very north of Scandinavia and Finland. I loved the character of Too-Ticky, sitting calmly fishing beneath the ice and delivering wise words, for example, when a bitterly disappointed Moomintroll finally sees a glimmer of real sunlight in the long grey winter, only to almost immediately see it disappear again, Too-Ticky says ‘Well you wouldn’t expect it to come all at once would you?’

Given all the immigration and displaced people in the world just now, this story seems particularly apt. The Moomin winter is full of lost people, finding their way in a new land.

‘There are such a lot of things that have no place in summer and autumn and spring. Everything that’s a little shy and a little rum. Some kinds of night animals and people that don’t fit in with others and that nobody really believes in. They keep out of the way all the year. And then when everything’s quiet and white and the nights are long and most people are asleep—then they appear.’

Lots to think about in this book. I can really recommend it.

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The Wolf and the Watchman

Last night I headed to the Swedish Ambassador’s Residence (an absolutely exquisite Adam building), for a talk by Swedish author, Niklas Natt och Dag to celebrate the launch of the English language edition of his bestselling Swedish novel, 1793, called ‘The Wolf and the Watchman’ in English.

The book is set in 1793, the year after King Gustav III was famously assassinated. It tells the story of a watchman, living in a rough and gritty Stockholm, suffering after years of foreign wars, who discovers a body in a swamp and hands over the case to an investigator. The Swedish Academy of Crime Writers gave the book the award for best Crime Debut novel in 2017 even though Niklas Natt och Dag said in his talk that he had not in fact thought of the book as a crime novel. Barry Forshaw, the Nordic crime expert and commentator , was in the audience and commented that the book seemed to him a blend of Nordic Noir and serious historical fiction.

I was touched to hear Niklas Natt och Dag had been quite a solitary child and books for him were like companions, as he escaped into an imaginary world. Now as an adult, he has published his own novel providing companionship to others.

The author belongs to the oldest surviving noble family in Sweden dating back to the thirteenth century; his surname, Natt och Dag translates as Night and Day- the origin being his family crest, a shield split into gold and blue. He signed books after his talk and had a wax seal so everyone who took home a copy literally had a signed and sealed book.

The author signing copies of his book. A bust of Gustav III behind him

The Wolf and the Watchman is by all accounts is beautifully written. It is out in UK book shops today.

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