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Fair Play [Paperback]

Tove Jansson , Ali Smith , Thomas Teal
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
RRP: 6.99
Price: 5.59 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

7 Jun 2007
What mattered most to Tove Jansson, she explained in her eighties, was work and love, a sentiment she echoes in this tender and original novel. Translated for the first time into English, Fair Play portrays a love between two older women, a writer and artist, as they work side-by-side in their Helsinki studios, travel together and share summers on a remote island. In the generosity and respect they show each other and the many small shifts they make to accommodate each other’s creativity we are shown a relationship both heartening and truly progressive. “so what can happen when Tove Jansson turns her attention to her own favourite subjects, love and work, in the form of this novel about two women, lifelong partners and friends? Expect something philosophically calm – and discreetly radical. At first sight it looks autobiographical. Like everything Jansson wrote, it’s much more than it seems . . .Fair Play is very fine art . ” (Ali Smith from the introduction to Fair Play) Praise for A Winter Book‘Another charming, treasurable book by the author of the Mooomin stories…simple and light in style, yet somehow profound.’ Sunday Telegraph ‘The Winter Book is a magical read and will become a faithful friend’ The Scotsman‘We should be grateful that Jansson’s work is back in print.’ The Observer ‘Quietly beautiful and elegantly precise’ Daily Mail

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Product details

  • Paperback: 152 pages
  • Publisher: Sort Of Books; 1st Edition edition (7 Jun 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0954899539
  • ISBN-13: 978-0954899530
  • Product Dimensions: 13.4 x 20.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 96,629 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

TOVE JANSSON (1914-2001) is revered around the world as one of the foremost children's authors of the twentieth century for her illustrated Moomin chapter books.

Product Description


I absolutely loved FAIR PLAY. Tove Jansson has that magical gift of communicating directly with her reader through seemingly effortless prose. Writing of this calibre is a rare thing, to be treasured. (Philip Ardagh)

A book about love - tender, eccentric and fiercely independent. It feels a privilege to read it. (Esther Freud)

Jansson's prose is wondrous: it is clean, deliberate; an aesthetic so certain of itself it's breathtaking. (Daily Telegraph)

About the Author

The writer and artist Tove Jansson is best known as the creator of the Moomin stories, which have been published in thirty-five languages. Fair Play, written when she was 75 years old, was one of ten novels that she wrote for adults. This is the first time it has been published in English.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars simplistic beauty 10 July 2007
By J. Wild
As with her previously translated adult books,The Summer Book and The Winter Book, Jansson manages to capture a world of emotion and understanding with the most minimal use of language. Indeed the book is very short,a collection of connected vignettes about two aging women living and growing old together. As usual the themes of age, rebellion and communication are clearly defined, but what makes Jansson a master of storytelling is her ability to say the obvious when least expected and avoid it when it feels inevitable. Thus allowing the reader to follow the subtext and relate to those situations in life where we already know what the conversation will be about, what will be said, what avoided. Not only does this feel like slices of real life it also manages to be a warm heartfelt and honest piece of work. Who needs pages of description when Jannson's characters can create an entire world in the most succinct of ways.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Both profound and simple 15 May 2008
At first glance Tove Jannson's Fair Play is simply a collection of stories about two female artists living together in their old age. It is semi-autobiographical, with Tove being the fictional Marie, and her lifelong partner, graphic designer Tuulikka Pietelä, being Johanna. Tove is of course the author and creator of the Moomin series of childrens' books, which spawned a large number of television programmes popular in the 1970s and 80s, and to this day.

Marie and Johanna divide their time between a large apartment in Helsinki and a tiny island of the coast of southern Finland, across the channel from Estonia. Both women have a strong commitment to their work, and while living as partners, they also create plenty of personal space for their artistic preparation and reflection.

As in Tove's books, The Summer Book and A Winter Book, on the face of it, nothing much happens. However it is in the minutiae of their daily life together that forms the real core of the book and if there is a message at all, it is about making the most of each moment of the day, and appreciating everything that is around you - this almost Buddhist message comes across strongly in these simple stories.

The two women generally get along and share much of their lives together, but they also argue, they get jealous, and they often irritate each other. On the other hand, they both understand the rhythms of each other's lives, and they both understand the creative process and its tensions.

The forward by Ali Smith offers useful scene-setting, and I think I agree with her that this is "a novel with a profound sense of discretion at its core" - a lot isn't said, and a lot of conversation between these women doesn't need to be said out loud.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another delight 11 July 2007
By Drew
Another simple but profound piece of writing from Tove. This was the perfect holiday read for me over a week. Gentle tales about gentle people living their lives. Uncompromising in many ways. So much is left unsaid and for your imagination. Like with a best friend you don't have to say everything as they already know what your thinking. If you are looking for a book which is action packed then this isn't for you but if you want something about art, life and friendship with humour then.....
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gentle, spare portrait of a relationship 23 Feb 2013
This semi-autobiographical, semi-novel is a coming together and a parting, the constant interplay of closeness and separateness of a long standing couple. Jonna and Mari are creative introverts, turning away the world for their island retreat, their routines of closeness, their two separate apartments joined by an attic corridor. The two women would rather watch a video together than go out to their friends for dinner.

Only casually, once, is their sharing a bed mentioned. They are deeply familiar with each other, with each other's lives, with each other's dead parents, with their mothers' ageing and their own ageing. This after all was written in 1989 when Jansson was seventy-five.

Their accusations of each other are familiar and ritual. When they are stranded in a small boat in the suddenly descending fog, in the middle of the sea lane, and are almost run down by a larger vessel, it is simply accepted that they are unprepared. It is accepted that Jonna is the one who will recall she did not bring a watch, or compass, or look at the weather report. And Mari will ask her whether there is any crisp bread in the stern box - because her mother kept some there. And of course they will talk about their mothers - "Your mother used to cheat at poker!" - "That's possible but she was 85 years old!"

Repetition is accepted - as is the repetition of the cowboy movies, the Westerns that Jonna is addicted to: "Friendship between men who are unswervingly honourable towards one other. That is the concept of the Western."
Mari says: "It's the same thing over and over. They ride past precisely the same mountain and the same waterfall and that Mexican church. And the saloon. And the oxcarts. Don't they ever get tired of it?"

"No," Jonna answers. "They never do.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elegant and spare prose. 14 May 2011
By Mouxie
I found this book as a new arrival in Swindon library, and grabbed it only because I knew of her work as a children's writer. Once I'd read it I bought a copy for friend. There's no doubt that the beautiful translation here raises the reader's experience, but at the core of this is the most touching and elegant writing and style. This is a book that you will go back to over and over; I know I will.
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