Since I can’t tell you about what I’m doing, I thought I’d have a crack at telling you about what I’m reading. Only the things I really dig, though. You might wind up loving the stuff I just find okay if you read it, but I’d rather give glowing responses than get bogged down with having to rationalize why X book was not so hot.
Welcome to my new series, Rambling Reads.
Comet in Moominland – Tove Jansson
When I was in Helsinki a friend (who you will meet when that post happens even-tu-al-ly) volunteered to give me some Finnish book recommendations. After dragging my heels in choosing between a classic and a recent bestseller, it was decided that neither was fit travel material, being either too heavy or too upsetting. That’s how I wound up getting my first introduction to the Moomins. And I’m not going back.
I’m a little late to the party in learning about the joys of life in Moominvalley and beyond, but I fully intend to make up for lost time. Jansson had one of those gorgeous creative minds that is able to construct fantasy-worlds for anyone, child or adult, who is willing to give themselves over to their imagination. While it was technically the second book in her Moomin series, Comet in Moominland is often sold as the first due to slight differences in Jansson’s illustration style between The Moomins and the Great Flood and the rest of her books, Comet‘s fuller cast of characters, and the fact that people generally just liked it better. Being a novice to the series, though, I don’t think I was under any obligations to stick to the canon or anything.
It’s funny about paths and rivers…You see them go by, and suddenly you feel upset and want to be somewhere else—wherever the path or the river is going, perhaps…
Moomintroll’s little friend Sniff comes out with this gem in the first few pages, and I was really comforted to have picked up a book that was echoing what I was doing. It’s silly and maybe a little childish on my part, but I was reading a children’s book and playing tic-tac-toe on my hands at the time, so I’d say it fit my state of mind. From there, the book was nothing but expert descriptions and fantastic characters.
The story itself it quite dark: Moomintroll and Sniff head off to find the observatory in the Lonely Mountains to discover what all the strange symbols appearing in nature and the comet they’ve heard about have to do with them.
Though they find out quite quickly that the comet is headed straight for Earth, to their new home in Moominvalley in fact, it is not all darkness and fear as the comet draws closer, turning the sky to fire and drying up the sea. The duo and their new friend Snufkin–a harmonica-playing-poet-vagrant who quickly won out as my favorite character–still find time to go to dances in the forest, eat fruit soup with Moomintroll’s lady-friend, and use The Hemulen’s dress as an air balloon.
I fell so in love with Jansson’s world that when I took a side-trip to Tampere, I spent close to three hours in the town’s library basement, which was converted into a Moomin museum, complete with a scale model of Moominhouse and a dress-up area. But that is another story. While I was there, I picked up a postcard and sent my copy of the book along to my goddaughter and her little sister so that we could read it together when I get home, meaning I get to treat myself to a new one and the the rest of the series. If you have a spare couple of hours, you really ought to go for a wander through Jansson’s world, which is sometimes scary, often funny, and always beautiful.