Sculptors Daughter


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The landscape was just as forbidding as before and looked like an illustration in which for once they had printed the grey shades properly. Out at sea the long-tailed ducks were carrying on like mad singing wedding songs to one another. Daddy stood quite still and it crept into his jacket and hung upside down and went to sleep.

Book review: Sculptor’s Daughter, by Tove Jansson

We carried his dinner outside to him and he ate it very carefully. No one was allowed to speak. Then we took his plate away and Daddy stayed where it was until it got dark. Then the bat flew around for a while and came back to him again. This time it only stopped for a moment — a kind of courtesy call. I pulled the hem a little. Then the tulle skirt drifted out on top of me with a quiet swish. I hear the clothes hanger swing and scrape the top of the wardrobe and the skirt came after me. The last room was dark like the inside of a tunnel except for a faint glow in the gold frames and the mirror which was hung too high on the wall.

All the lamps were soft and misty and made a very tiny circle of light. And when you ran you made no noise. Under the Christmas tree Christmas is vast, it is a green jungle with red apples and sad, peaceful angels twirling around on cotton thread keeping watch over the entrance to the primaeval forest.

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In the glass ball the primaeval forest is never-ending. Christmas is a time when you feel absolutely safe. Thanks to the Christmas tree. Now if only some one would magic up a reissue — this is a book that really should not stay out of print. Jan 20, Laura Leaney rated it really liked it. A completely unique book compiled of fragments of Tove Jansson's childhood, written as if they are being told by Tove the child.

As a consequence, the memories are magical, surreal, Her parents are artists, and their bohemian love allows Tove the space and freedom to ignite her imagination at every turn. I'm guessing that the author is six or seven years old, and as she roams the Finnish countryside that surrounds her family's summer cottage she makes up games, stories, and hones her astonishing A completely unique book compiled of fragments of Tove Jansson's childhood, written as if they are being told by Tove the child. I'm guessing that the author is six or seven years old, and as she roams the Finnish countryside that surrounds her family's summer cottage she makes up games, stories, and hones her astonishing memory for sensory detail.

While I was reading, I kept thinking about how modern children - at least the ones I know in Los Angeles - are not allowed the freedom to wander, the freedom to wonder, to imagine that they'd just turned into a reed or a jelly-fish. It is not a completely idealized past. Tove can be a cruel, somewhat nasty child.

She's often hurtful to the hired help, having tantrums when her expectations are not met, but her memories reveal a growing artistic consciousness.

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It's the beautiful writing that captivates though. I can't exactly say why. Tove Jansson's prose is both simple and lush, a paradoxical combination of qualities. To my disappointment, 13 of the 18 stories in this volume were already published as The Winter Book , so there was little here that was new to me.

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Also, the stories do not together create what I would call a memoir. I did appreciate the frequent photographs from the Jansson family archives. Tove Jansson is writing about her childhood in Finland by using a series of short stories — each recalling an episode from her home or from the country side.


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A whimsical style blending reality and imagination allows one to experience life with her artistic parents and nonsensical outings into nature. Jansson's imagination wrestles with harsh reality so sometimes it all seems very dreamlike.

It made me smile quite a bit. She also seems to have been an inspiring and eccentric artist well worth exploring. This book is the perfect gateway if you would like to linger in the dreams and memories of a very imaginative and delightful human being! Many wild adventures await you This collection of short stories is not quite memoir, but close to it. The biographical aspect is emphasised by the inclusion of many family photographs and some artwork and several pictures of Jansson's father's art studio; her father was the sculptor, while her mother was a commercial artist who specialised in many forms of art and served as the family's main breadwinner.

As the title of the collection suggests, art is an important part of family life - it is both occupation and language. Jansson's writing is deceptively simple, and each of these stories has a very particular and consistent voice - the voice of a child, presumably Tove herself, but shaped by an adult's consciousness, too. It astonishes me that Jansson can obviously remember vividly what it felt like to be a child, and to think the way a child thinks. Safety and danger, boredom and interest, the excitement and perils of autonomy - these are the themes and preoccupations of every story, whether that story has to do with chasing icebergs, sitting under Christmas trees, catching fish or besting a fellow grandchild.

The writing has a hypnotic quality; it exerts a very strong mood and emotion.


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One of my favourites was Snow - in which Tove and her mother "Ham" go to stay in a strange country house that becomes buried in snow. Tove vacillates between fear and wild joy, and then gradually the ordinary world reasserts itself. All along, there is the half-knowledge that the world of her emotions is being partly manipulated by her - she realises that she is telling a sort of story to herself, even as she is in thrall to that story. It is a feeling that I can remember as a child, but I had forgotten; reading this story it was somehow restored to me. My only caveat is that The Winter Book a later collection has taken many of the stories from this collection - first published in as the first of Jansson's 'adult' books after the success of the Moomin stories.

Although these stories are well-worth a second read, I was disappointed to realise that this one was not fresh material.

Sculptor's Daughter

View 1 comment. Dec 25, Blue rated it it was amazing Shelves: english-books. An illustrator has to think of the author and the reader and sometimes even of the publisher. Aug 09, Rositsa Tsvetanova rated it it was amazing. Tove Jansson's characteristic "moomin"-atmosphere has soaked in a book, where she actually hasn't taken the shortcut through Moomin valley - a book, where the fear lurks behind every three trunk combined with the longing for adventure and the safety of the Christmas tree in equal amounts.

It doesn't matter if the little Tove describes casual everyday activities or crazy, spontaneous undertakings - they are all inspired by the spirit of freedom in the house and the unbound imagination of the chil Tove Jansson's characteristic "moomin"-atmosphere has soaked in a book, where she actually hasn't taken the shortcut through Moomin valley - a book, where the fear lurks behind every three trunk combined with the longing for adventure and the safety of the Christmas tree in equal amounts.


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It doesn't matter if the little Tove describes casual everyday activities or crazy, spontaneous undertakings - they are all inspired by the spirit of freedom in the house and the unbound imagination of the child and often of her parents as well. Fantasy and reality melt into one another to form a mystic, sometimes bizarre world of arty self-sufficiency and yes - the ones who are acquainted with the moomin books and Sommarboken will instinctively feel the pokes of reminiscences although there are no obvious similarities.

View all 6 comments. I am a lifelong fan of the Moomintroll books. When I heard about this memoir, I had to read it. It was an unexpected delight. Not a traditional autobiography at all, but rather a series of vignettes of Finnish childhood, sometimes difficult and often magical. Always enthralling shown from within the consciousness of a small, independent, artistic girl, with all the strange internal logic that implies.

Sculptor's Daughter: A Childhood Memoir - AbeBooks - Jansson, Tove: X

The writing is spare and lyrical. You don't need to be a fan of hers to enjoy this lovely littl I am a lifelong fan of the Moomintroll books. You don't need to be a fan of hers to enjoy this lovely little book, but if you are, you may recognize the spirit of Little My here.

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