Book impression – Fair Play by Tove Jansson

This morning I finished Fair Play a novel by Tove Jansson. I call this a book impression because I’d like to talk about how the book made me feel, instead of actually reviewing the book.

I began reading this book a week ago. The e-book version translated from Swedish to English, on my cell phone late at night before falling asleep. I like to read before I fall asleep. I “borrowed” this book from my local library via their website, and although I had loads of books I haven’t finished on my reading list, I decided to read this one because I only had 14 days with it, which had already dwindled down to 9. What made me look into this book? Well, generally I like fiction, and the description of this particular book fit right in with certain books that I gravitate towards, or at least that I thought I would gravitate towards. I have read a lot of lesbian romance books in my life, and I honestly thought this one was going to just be another one of those. Kind of the same way I feel about movies on the Hallmark channel. I love watching them but they are pretty much all the same, with different characters, even though they make me sublimely happy by the end. The happiness doesn’t last, though. It’s just a quick boost of happiness.

But I was wrong. This book touched my heart. It reminded me of the relationship I have with my wife, and it made me appreciate the things that she has to put up with in being married to someone like me. And by that, I mean a person who constantly has new ideas, gets excited way too easily and I’ll admit it, maybe has the attention span of a fruit fly.

When I started reading this book last week. The language didn’t grip me. I was reading but I think because I was a bit sleepy, I was just glossing over the words. They didn’t stick. They didn’t mean anything, and after I had finished 5 pages or so. I thought to myself. “What did I just read?” I had no idea. So I decided to give it up for the night.

Two days ago. I tried again. I sat down undistracted and I read. The characters because though they are described so sparsely physically, they can really be whoever you want them to be and it’s as if you really get a sense of who they are on an intimate level.

They are two women who live together and are both artists. Their methods of working, are as completely opposite as any two artists could possibly be. And yet they appreciate each other and they keep at it. Each chapter of this book is like reading a short story. It’s like an intimate peek into these women’s lives and at the end of each one you gain a slightly deeper sense of what makes them function the way that they do. And you see that their love is something true, rare and beautiful.

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A part of me wants to say that this book is not a romance novel. And yet, it has these moments. These rare fragments of romance that tug at your heart strings and makes you take a deep breath, acknowledging that love takes so many different forms, and even the simplest gesture of niceness can be the sweetest thing that exists.

As I read this book, so quickly and with such determination finish it and to understand and dive deeper into the world of these two women, I think there are many things that I perhaps misunderstood, or give enough attention. And for that reason, I plan to reread this book. I just wanted to share what an impact it had on me this morning as I read the final stories/chapters aloud to my wife. I even went back and reread aloud the chapter/story that resonated with me the most to her. I’m sad to say it didn’t quite resonate with her as much as it did with me. But, books, much like art and most things, the feelings that you have about them, are relative. You can’t force someone to feel a certain way about a book, or anything else for that matter. Just as I can’t force myself to feel a particular way about something if I do not.

That’s why this is my impression of the book. I compared my wife and myself to the main characters of the story as I read it. It was not intentional, it’s just the way it was since they fit so well. I was like Mari, the super frazzled artist, who took on too many projects, barely finishing anything, getting overwhelmed and giving up, feeling so much, and sometimes overwhelmed by feeling, that to anyone who wasn’t in love with her, might think she was a few trees short of a forest. And my wife, much so like the determined Jonna, who always had something in her sights, and finished things, almost as quickly as it had been started. The love between these two women was never more that subtly expressed in the writing of this book. But you get the impression that they are made for each other, and they work so well together, inspiring each other in different ways.

I’ve never read a book that made me so perfectly want to parallel it to my real life. I want to recommend this book by climbing up to the roof and screaming, “Will everyone please find a copy of ‘Fair Play’ by Tove Jansson, and read it once? Please!”. But I am not going to do that. Much like my wife, this book may not resonate with you the way it did with me. And you may post angry comments about how boring you thought the book was. Then I will have to re-evaluate how awesome I am at picking things that I think other people will like. So I won’t do that.

And so, I am not recommending it. I am merely stating that a novel, with two opposite artist characters, who love each other and live a lifestyle of creating the types of art that they feel the need to create, is out there in the world. I thought it was more amazing than I have been able to say in all of these ramblings. But that’s just me.

Until next time, keep doing what makes you happy!

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