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4.3 out of 5 stars48
4.3 out of 5 stars
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I got this book after loving The Summer Book so much. I was a little daunted to find that this was not a novel, but a collection of short stories. It is often the case that those who write great novels write mediocre short stories as they are very different disciplines. Luckily Jansson excels at both. The stories are slight, almost like sketches. Some deal with her own memories of bohemian childhood, others are straightforward fiction. The memoir stories are often very funny, with that peculiar melancholy that haunts much of her writing about the moomins. I read some of them to my children and they found them hilarious and touching. The only fault I can find is that these are an amalgamation of stories from several volumes of Jansson's work, which has yet to be published in its entirety in English. I would much rather have read the books as they are meant to be rather than having the stories presented to me by an editor. Having said that, better to have this than nothing at all. I am just hoping they hurry up and print everything she has written.
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on 6 February 2009
This is a collection of short stories by the Finnish author and illustrator Tove Jansson, better known as the creator of the Moomins. Tove grew up in Finland and spent most of her life in a remote island in the Finnish gulf, first with her artist parents and then with her lifelong partner. The nearly-autobiographical stories in this collection cover her tomboyish childhood, where life is ruled by the adventures the island provides, to her old age, when she has to leave the island for good due to health reasons.

Some of the stories don't stand up for themselves; they seem like sketches that bridge other stories or paint just one aspect of the author, but without tension or much narrative drive. Others, however, are like Zen paintings on the relationshion between humans and nature, perfect glimpses of a life dedicated to the outdoors as a way of discovering the interior. Tove's writing is full of anecdotes which are slightly quirky and probably good representations of Finnish humour. There's a certain innocence to her stories that makes A Winter Book as warm and bright as a dreamed summer.
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on 21 January 2013
Until we actually get Sculptor's Daughter in English, and how I long for that, this is the next best thing. If you've only read the Moomin books you might wonder how adult fiction would sit with your pleasure of these. Would it jar? Not a bit of it. They are all one and the same, I couldn't imagine how that would be until I started reading her adult fiction. Each reflects a new light upon the other and the light is good. You realise, if you didn't before, how adult her Moomin books are and you likewise hear and feel the child's clarity of vision and pure but eccentric sense of truth chiming through the adult work. The short stories in the collection occupy a borderland between autobiography and fiction. Many stories are memorialised moments of her childhood. They are all utterly spellbinding, the world they describe is far away and long ago but is vivid, intense and compelling. it is a shock to come back to the surface and find yourself in the early 21st century.
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on 22 January 2007
Tove Jansson's "A Winter Book" cherry-picks short stories from her autobiographical "A Sculptor's Daughter" and adds later gems to deliver an unforgettable collection of work. Her cool, clear gaze takes in vivid moments from childhood (check "The Stone" and the stunning image left by "The Iceberg") through to the unsentimental, yet very poignant, "Taking Leave" which deals with some of the problems of ageing and coming to terms with failing powers.

Tove Jansson was an extraordinary children's writer, and it's great to see some of her work for adults finally translated into English. And what a lovely job Sort Of have done: good, clean cover design, and intelligent use of photographs throughout. Ali Smith's introduction does justice to Jansson's writing. Very few children's authors have the capability to write for adults also. Tove Jansson's honesty, clarity and sense of humour shine throughout.
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on 27 November 2006
I can't resist sharing Body Tonkin's verdict on this wonderful book in The Independent. He devoted his entire column to a review, after first raging about the "snowdrift of Christmas drivel" filling bookshops this winter.

The ideal book for Christmas, he contended, would "honour the experiences and insights of children without sentiment or condescension. It might also salute the changing seasons with a toughly tender eye on wild nature. In doing so, it might even register the passage of time, and the ageing of body and mind, while steering clear of self-pity. And it might (like an unfeasibly flawless companion) contrive to sound charming, funny, sympathetic, wise - and a bit mysterious as well."

"What price would such a paragon command?" Tonkin continued. "£6.99 to be exact. Ideal presents never quite take on tangible form, but A Winter Book comes fairly close...
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on 17 February 2014
I have fond memories of Jansson from childhood as I loved her Moonmin books, so I was looking forward to this one, and maybe reliving a little of my reading past.

It is a collection of short stories for adults, loosely grouped under the catchall of Winter, and the stories are split into three sections,Snow, Flotsam and Jetsam and Travelling Light.

There is a huge variety to the stories, from a series of letters from an individual to people, some messages, which were a little surreal and slightly longer stories. One or two of the stories were lovely, my two favourites were The Iceberg and The Squirrel. Others were less good.

I didn't completely understand the Title of the book, as there were very few stories specifically on winter. Apart from the two that i mentioned above, I was not that keen on most of them, but that said, the prose was beautiful and she has such a way with words and descriptions. Still intend on reading her Summer book though.
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A lovely selection of Jansson's short stories: a lot are recollections of her childhood with her artist parents- winters in Helsinki and summers on the offshore islands that feature in her better-known 'Summer Book'. I loved 'Snow'-her impressions of the thick all-encompassing snow; and 'the Iceberg' where she throws her torch into the hollow of the berg.
Later adult stories include 'the Squirrel' where a strange and isolated woman living on an island strikes up a love-hate relationship with a squirrel, and finally 'Taking Leave' where she and her partner finally have to leave the island as they're getting older.
A number of b/w photos throughout give added interest.
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on 16 May 2016
I hadn’t heard of Jansson prior to buying this collection of short stories, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to read some seasonal stories. I’ve since found out that the author was the creator of the Moomins, which is a very popular series for children. This collection is vastly different, however.All of the stories relate to Jansson’s own upbringing in Finland. Whether they are 100% autobiographical, one cannot tell. However, it is clear that both her and her parents are protagonists throughout. This brings a deeper sense of reality to the writing; the stories feel observational and accurate in their telling.

What lacks, perhaps, is the diversity of style and subject that other short story collections bring. There is a calm to each of the stories, as if nostalgically looking at the author’s life, and this can leave them short of the drama and tension that I enjoy seeing build. However, bringing drama for its own sake would bring a falseness that Jansson manages to shy away from in A Winter Book. There is little to directly link with the theme of Winter and yet, in its Finnish setting, it seems blindingly obvious that this theme runs throughout. It is beautifully and yet simply portrayed.

Having read a number of short stories of late, many of them surprising in their content, A Winter Book was a smoother journey. It is remarkably descriptive, but without drive in its plot, allowing the reader to be fully immersed in the landscape. Whilst it doesn’t have the narrative tension I am used to, it is the sort of book you really want to curl up with, away from the chilly weather.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 18 February 2015
This was a beautiful book, with tales about being both young and old. There were lots of tales about boats. It paints a wonderful picture of life in Finland. My favourite of the stories was called "Messages" and was a selection of the text messages received by Tove Jansson. It was very personal and showed the scope of her life and work and other people's expectations of her and relationships to her. Another story called "Correspondence" was the letters of a Japanese fan. Each story was neat and self-contained. It's a gentle read and is optimistic and peaceful.
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on 7 July 2010
Just such wonderful stuff is snow and cold as it piles up around and creates that inner cosy glow - not so much so with Jansson who brings childhood perils and the inner child's vulnerability into the cold winter light. Simplicity of expression but the child's ability to see the world for the first time make this a wonderful winterland of jeopardy and discovery. Like it a lot. Time to read the Summer Book now. If you like her work, try a grown-up's transforming world-view, like this: Paradise Now
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