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Fair Play by Tove Jansson

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

Best for:
Those looking for a mix between short stories and a novel.

In a nutshell:
Jonna and Mari are artists and friends who are in their 70s and live at opposite ends of an apartment building on an island.

Worth quoting:
“She’s not shy; she just won’t bother trying to be pleasant. She thinks it’s artistic to be gloomy.”

Why I chose it:
My partner gave this to me as a gift, I think because it’s a novel about friendship, not romantic love, and I wish there were more of those.

Review:
One of my favorite TV shows is Grace & Frankie. It’s not a perfect piece of art, but I love that women in their 70s are shown as complex people with their own wants and needs, not people who are shut off in a corner, watching everyone else live their lives. I don’t think we get enough of that in popular media – the exploration of friendship outside of, say, YA shows and books. Nearly everything revolves around romantic love, and while that can be interesting to me, I think the love of a friend is so interesting as well.

This book is a series of short chapters with no obvious through line. Yes, they probably should be read in order (I imagine the author had it in mind), but one chapter doesn’t necessarily follow from the next. Each has a title (similar to a short essay) as opposed to a number.

Jonna and Mari are both artists – Mari, I believe, writes and illustrates stories; Jonna works in other aspects of visual art (film, paint, etc.). They seem to be very important to each other’s creative processes, stopping in during the workday while also picking up on where the other is in their journey on a particular piece of art. They also have visitors, take trips, get stuck in storms. They clearly care deeply about each other, in a way that is so familiar that they know what to do next without discussion. It’s sweet and interesting.

They also aren’t perfect. Jonna can be a bit short, and Mari a bit passive-aggressive. Jonna strikes me as a bit more selfish, but not to a problematic degree. They are both independent and supportive of each other, and it’s lovely to read.

Recommend to a Friend / Keep / Donate it / Toss it:
Keep it – I can see myself reading it again, especially as I get older.

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