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Fair play by Tove Jansson

Fair play (original 1989; edition 2010)

by Tove Jansson

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3932227,240 (4.01)78
Title:Fair play
Authors:Tove Jansson
Info:New York : New York Review Books, [2010]
Collections:Your library
Tags:GLBTRT, Over the Rainbow Book List, 2012

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Fair Play by Tove Jansson (1989)


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We aren't introduced to Jonna and Mari - they quietly enter onto the stage and go about their lives as if we're not here, watching them. We listen in on their conversations about family trivia and art, we watch with them the second-rate Western movies which Jonna enjoys so, and which Mari tolerates because Jonna does enjoy them.

When we meet them, Mari and Jonna have been together for thirty years and are sprightly still in their seventies. Each chapter is a vignette of their shared lives, displaying the little annoyances and intimacies, the small unnoticed things done to please the other, that make up the mundane existence of two people so deeply in love that they are rarely conscious of it anymore as it has become who they are.

There aren't any grand dramatic scenes; even the storm that terrifies an unwanted visitor to their island is a backdrop for the human figures in the foreground, and Mari's quiet kindness towards somebody whose presence she resented until she saw their need. A road trip to the USA centres not around any great events or sights, but rather Jonna and Mari's unassuming friendship with their hotel maid, who introduces them to the patrons of an unremarkable back street bar. The closest the book gets to drama is with the coming of Wladislav, a ninety-two year old puppet sculptor whose short visit to show Mari the marionette hands he's made of her character illustrations is more disrupting and terrifying than any sea-storm. Mari, initially disconcerted by Wladyslaw's intensity and brusqueness, is instantly won over by the exquisitely expressive craftmanship of his work.

We leave Mari and Jonna much as we found them, quietly, without fanfare, but certain in the knowledge of their deep and abiding love for each other, a gift to us of hope in the possibilty of living an unassuming, long life of fulfilment with another. The final line of the book is probably the most perfect ending I've read in a long time, which I won't quote, not because it's a spoiler, but because it needs the experience of the rest of the book to truly appreciate. ( )
  Michael.Rimmer | Mar 22, 2017 |
I am confused. Why don't I love this book? I will catch it unaware someday and try again. ( )
  sirk.bronstad | Feb 16, 2017 |
This is a short book of vignettes exploring the relationship of Jonna and Mari. They have been friends/lovers for years and are both artists in their 50s. The books moves from their city apartment to an isolated island where they spend their summers to their wandering vacations, but regardless of the setting the focus is on their interactions with each other and with their artistic endeavors. Mari is a writer and Jonna is an artist.

The book quietly and subtly shows how these two women support each other despite the typical frustrations that all relationships have. I've read that this is semi-autobiographical, depicting the relationship that Tove Jansson had with her partner, Tuulikki Pietilä, a Finnish artist.

I found this book quiet but satisfying. I don't think it's as memorable as the other books by Jansson that I've read (The Summer Book and The True Deceiver) but I enjoyed it. ( )
  japaul22 | Nov 28, 2015 |
There is lots of fair play in this collection of linked sketches, but above all else, there is a love story. Not a romantic book, not a steamy novel, it is a quiet picture of two people deeply in love, able to give each other time together and time alone.

The reader is drawn slowly to this realization. The first episode, "Changing Pictures", has a rather bossy woman bustling around her friend's apartment, organizing and rehanging pictures, discarding ephemera, gaining definition for the display. In the next vignette, the scene is set: They lived at opposite ends of a large apartment building near the harbor, and between their studios lay the attic, an impersonal no-man's- land of tall corridors with locked plank doors on either side. Mari liked wandering across the attic; it drew a necessary, neutral interval between their domains. She could pause on the way to listen to the rain on the metal roof, look out across the city as it lit its lights, or just linger for the pleasure of it.
They never asked "Were you able to work today?" Maybe they had twenty or thirty years earlier, but they'd gradually learned not to. There are empty spaces that must be respected -- those often long periods when a person can't see the pictures or find the words and needs to be left alone.

The two were meeting for one of their film and discussion nights. This night it would be Fassbinder, another night it might be Robin Hood. As the book moves on through the seasons and the years, we see the two women, one an artist and one a writer, in the most domestic of situations. They are completely comfortable with one another, supportive of each other's work, yet fiercely independent in their creative lives.

Summers see them on their island in the Gulf of Finland, winters in the city. They bicker about their respective mothers, hang out in a bar in Phoenix, they do the chores and go fishing. In the hands of most writers, tedium would be mounting swiftly, but with each episode, Jansson develops the relationship in a way that makes the reader care about their lives. By the time the final surprising story is told,, the resolution seems completely apt.

This book of course is the story of Jansson and her lover Tuulikki Pietila, written when Jansson was in her mid-seventies. There is a sense of looking back on life, together with the assurance that despite encroaching age that life is by no means finished. There are always new possibilities.
4 vote SassyLassy | Sep 3, 2015 |
Beautiful. ( )
  beckydj | Aug 19, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tove Janssonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Teal, ThomasTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, AliIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Jonna had a happy habit of waking each morning as if to a new life.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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'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.

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