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Sculptor's Daughter, by Tove Jansson

I find it generally difficult to write up short story collections here; I don't find it satisfactory to either list them all in exhaustive detail, or to concentrate on a few outstanding pieces, disregarding the rest. The most satisfying ones for blogging purposes are those with a unifying theme, preferably by a single author, and this collection of autobiographical snippets by one of my favourite writers ticked all of my boxes.

This was familiar territory - more than half of the autobiographical short stories and vignettes in Sculptor's Daughter are also in A Winter Book, but here there's a more systematic narrative of childhood, of a girl maybe around seven or nine years old growing up in an artistic household, in Helsinki in the 1920s. Some bits really stood out - her relationship with the household staff, her exploration of the countryside on her own, the grown-up political talk (with the recent horrible civil war an unspoken background), all built up parts of the bigger picture.

It's a very short book - 160 pages - and Moomin fans can safely try it as a sampler for Jansson's adult work. But it will also enlighten anyone interested in how European history was lived in small traumatised countries in the third decade of the last century, from the perspective of a child then looking back in later years.

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