Fair Play

Michael Hayward

Children of all ages love Tove Jansson’s Moominfamily stories, which take place in an imaginary setting—Moominvalley—

peopled by characters who are completely believable despite their unconventional appearance and idiosyncratic names (the Snork Maiden, Moomintroll, Snufkin, Little My). The Moomin books have remained in print for more than fifty years; there is even a Finnish “Moomin World” theme park for the series’ many faithful fans. But few Moomin readers know that Jansson also wrote eleven books for adults, several of which are available from Sort Of Books. One, The Summer Book, is an old favourite of mine brought back into print; set on an isolated island off the coast of Finland, it tells of an independent young girl who bonds with her solitary and acerbic grandmother; A Winter Book offers a selection of twenty shorter stories, most of them previously unavailable in English. But the real find is Fair Play, a brief novel by Jansson available for the first time in an English translation by Thomas Teale. To quote from the original cover copy, Fair Play is about “two women who share a life of work, delight and consternation,” a relationship that is modelled on the real-life partnership of Jansson and her companion, the Finnish graphic artist Tuulikki Pietilä. What stands out here, as in all of Jansson’s writing, is the respect shown by each character for the other’s need to be independent. Fair Play is a lovely little book in which nothing truly dramatic happens, apart from the daily adventures of shared lives made richer through a combination of creative work and love.

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