Tove Jansson

Gifted creator of the Moomins, a fantasy family for children and adults alike

Tove Jansson, the Finnish artist and writer who created the extraordinary world of the Moomins, has died aged 86. She became famous in England when the London Evening News published a daily Moomins comic strip that ran from 1952-70. Books about the characters were translated into 35 languages.

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She’s hard to warm to (well, she is Icelandic)

The Journey Home - Olaf Olafsson

WITH ITS strong narrative voice and acute observation of nature, The Journey Home immediately presents itself as an exceptional novel. Despite this, it is essentially about ordinariness. Set in the Sixties, the central character, Disa, is a mundane figure; a middle-aged Icelandic woman running an English country hotel with a good reputation for its food. There’s almost no dramatic action apart from a slow, solitary journey back home to Iceland, which she undertakes on discovering she has terminal cancer. Most of the journey is spent in a wistful reverie.

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An Inuit on the Underground

Ros Coward on how the hunter-gatherer world-view contains important lessons for humanity’s future in Hugh Brody’s The Other Side of Eden

The Other Side of Eden: Hunter-Gatherers, Farmers and the Shaping of the World - Hugh Brody

Anthropologist Hugh Brody describes the visit to London of Anaviapik, an Inuit who had never previously left the Arctic. Anaviapik is disgorged from a British Airways plane on a hot summer’s day swathed in a fox-fur- trimmed parka and ‘wearing sealskin boots with brown trousers tucked into their patterned tops’. To Brody’s relief, Anaviapik survives this visit with equanimity. One thing he never masters, however, is the built environment. Everyday Brody teases him, challenging him to find the short way home from the Tube. Everyday he fails: ‘How amazing that the Qallunaat [white people] live in cliffs. I would never be able to find my way here without you.’

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Bones of contention

Deborah Cadbury goes back to the Victorian era to track down the strange creatures abroad at the dawn of archaelogy in The Dinosaur Hunters

The Dinosaur Hunters - Deborah Cadbury

We live in times where the idea of dinosaurs is familiar, even banal. It’s hard to imagine these creatures were once unknown, or a time when scientists, fearful for what was implied about Creation, were utterly baffled by the enormous fossilised bones.

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True stories

Forget the city girl oeuvre – if you want to write a successful novel, set it around a historical event. Ros Coward on why books are looking back

An aspiring novelist searching for success could do worse than look through the history books. A surefire format would be to identify a peripheral figure – a wife, servant or daughter – whose story would coincide with a significant historical moment.

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