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The Woman Who Borrowed Memories: Selected…

The Woman Who Borrowed Memories: Selected Stories (NYRB Classics)

by Tove Jansson

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I couldn't help it. I compared every single story in this collection to the Moomintrolls. Sometimes multiple times per story. "Oh, this is just like the Moomintrolls!" "Hmmm, this is hardly anything like the Moomintrolls." It's a sickness, and it certainly distracted me quite a bit from these beautiful little stories. The upside was that reading these stories helped me to understand and articulate just why I love the Moomintrolls so dearly. Jansson has a talent for simplifying a story to its core, but no further. Others tend to either gloss over or wallow in the cruelties of childhood (and adult!) relationships. Jansson lets us revel in those savage moments, but always with such empathy, both for the one stung and the one hurling the abuse. I have always said that empathy and introspection were the strength of her characters, but reading "The Summer Child," which could so easily be transplanted into Moominvalley, was when I really could put into words my admiration for her way with cruelty. Tom's taunting of poor Elis was so like Little My torturing The Whomper from atop her wardrobe that I just couldn't help make Moomintroll comparisons for that story.)

I feel an intense need to take a trip to Finland. To spend a summer on an island. This book really is a series of open doors to another world and another way of life. I am so glad Jansson's work continues to gain international audience. ( )
  greeniezona | Dec 6, 2017 |
Although I find it very unusual to like every story in a book of shorts, in this one I can say I did. There was something that attracted me to each of these stories. There were of course a few standouts, one of which was titled The Squirrel. The sense of urgency, the loneliness and desperation of this woman living alone on an island and how she was so happy to see the squirrel and so desperate to have it stay. There is a twist here because I never really could figure out if the squirrel was actually real or not or if it arose out of her terrible loneliness.

The other story was altogether lighter and called, Traveling Light, about a man who needed to share his optimism with others.

The clarity of the writing in this collection was amazing, the descriptions wonderful. Really allowed me to immerse myself in each and every one of these stories. Themes of loneliness, nature and creativity were all explored. A truly wonderful collection.

ARC from publisher. ( )
  Beamis12 | Oct 23, 2014 |
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An NYRB Classics Original Tove Jansson excelled at the brief tale, writing stories that in their short spans unfold to reveal entire worlds. This is true of her internationally syndicated cartoon strip about a family of hippo-like creatures, the Moomins; of her beloved Moomin novels; and of her best-selling books for adults, like The Summer Book. Until now, however, Jansson's short stories have been nearly impossible to find in the United States. This volume brings together, for the first time in English, a generous selection of stories from the most fruitful period of her career, from her earliest collected stories, dating from the early 1970s, to her mature work, written not long before her death in 2001. In them are moments of the sublime and the mundane, as well as small heroisms and large griefs. Unsentimental, yet kind and humane, Jansson's short stories complement and enlarge our understanding of a giant of world literature.… (more)

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