My heart has resided in my throat for a little while now. It’s an uncomfortable place to keep it, but it’s Halloween. Or very nearly. I thought I’d go in for some horror and other scary stuff for a few days, but quite frankly had not anticipated being scared by Tove Jansson.
The very last Moomin illustrations by Tove herself are about to be published in English as The Dangerous Journey. The story is in verse, which was first translated and then handed over to Sophie Hannah for some poetic English. And while I don’t know the original (though I did check online and found the odd quote, which looks just right) I feel the result is terrific.
It’s the illustrations that make this book so marvellous. Though it’d be better to call them paintings, as they really are Art with a capital A. They are sort of scary, but so beautiful that you can just sit there and look at them. And look at them.
The story is another matter, however. One Swedish reviewer pointed out that bedtime was not a good time. It’s about Susanna and her cat, and the little girl unwisely wishes things would be different. And the next thing she knows, they are. Scarily different.
So she wanders off through this new landscape, seeing weird and frightening things, and meeting many of the characters from the Moomin stories, and together they walk on, still seeing a changed world.
Until they suddenly find themselves in Moomin’s garden with all the regular – and friendly – people waiting for them. It’s like being in a book, she thinks.
Well, maybe she was.
My heart is still up there banging away. But I do remember being read scary young children’s stories when I was small, so it could be that it’s just because I’m old that I feel like this.