Lisa Vegan's Reviews > Finn Family Moomintroll

Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson
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May 19, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: groups-buddies, childrens, fiction, novel, speculative-fiction, reviewed
Recommended for: probably almost everybody, unless they have identical taste to mine
Read from May 20 to June 04, 2010 — I own a copy

I feel sacrilegious in rating this book with just 2 stars. I almost “graded” it higher.

I apologize to everyone who loves this book. I’ve gotten over it now, but for years I was extremely perturbed when others I knew didn’t love A Wrinkle in Time and some of my other favorites.

I apologize to The Muskrat (who is a real hoot) and to Moominmamma (because she really is a great character) and some of the other characters too. I apologize to the author because there were glimmers and glimpses throughout the book of a book I’d have found great, including a few choice lines that I appreciated greatly.

Thanks to all the members of the Children's Books group who kept me motived to continue reading by explaining why they loved this book/series in this thread: http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/3..., and who also gave some specific information helpful to enjoying the story, including a link to a character list. And thanks to my old Goodreads friend Jenny (who unfortunately left Goodreads shortly after she’d joined – we used to incessantly discuss the book Into the Forest at a time when very, very few Goodreads members had shelved it and when only two of my real world friends had read it) who was (I think) from Finland and who raved about these books, which is why I read an owned copy.

I had an excruciatingly difficult time getting into this story. I felt irritable while reading it. If not for the help I received from the Children's Books group members in understanding the book and its background, I doubt I'd have enjoyed it at all. This might be due, in part, to my mood at the time of reading it and my stage of life.

It didn’t help that I needed a magnifying glass to read the letter to the reader and the map (yes, this book does have one of my beloved maps!) at the beginning of the book.

There are hints of psychological sophistication and wry humor, and it seems to be the kind of tale I “should” enjoy.

I hated the positive depiction of tobacco.

I loved the mother sending the kids to the cave until they were in better moods and really enjoyed it when the house turned into/grew overgrown with foliage because of the magic hat.

I eventually warmed to the characters, though I do wish I had first read the book where they were first introduced: Comet in Moominland because I might have enjoyed them from the beginning rather than being confused by them; in this book there is a lack of introduction to the world/characters. I also ended up enjoying some of the events that take place. However, I didn’t like the writing style, which I blame on the translation. (Never have I wished so fervently that I could read Swedish or Finnish.)

This book has the same feel to me as Winnie-the-Pooh, other books I never read as a child but read one of them only after I was a Goodreads member. I liked that one better than this, even though the sense of humor in this is much more sophisticated and probably better able to be appreciated by adults as well as by children.

The illustrations were very cute, but I think I’d have enjoyed them more if I’d known something, anything, about the characters before I’d started reading.

I will keep thinking and if I ever read the earlier book, I’ll try to reread this book too and see if I like it any better the second time around.

And, pay no attention to me, but take a look at the ratings breakdown for this book. Obviously. I’m not a typical reader of this book.
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Reading Progress

05/31/2010 page 1
0.57% "I'm going to try again, but I'm having an excruciatingly difficult time getting into this book. It didn't help that I needed a magnifying glass to read the letter to the reader and the map that are at the beginning of the book."
06/01/2010 page 33
18.75% "I hate this so much, I feel irritable reading it. I wonder if it's the translation or if this book just isn't my cup of tea. I'm trying to be open to liking it, as I continue to read, at least for now. My goal is to finish it, but I hope that I start enjoying it."
06/03/2010 page 128
72.73% "I have absolutely no idea how I'm going to rate this or what kind of review I'll give it. I'm thinking I'll get home tonight before 8 or 8:30 so I should be able to finish the book this evening."
06/03/2010 page 132
75.0% "Guess I'll finish tomorrow night. AND, then FINALLY start Cutting for Stone, with only 15-1/2 days to read it, and other group books also piling up."

Comments (showing 1-18 of 18) (18 new)

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Lisa Vegan MY OLD GOODREADS FRIEND JENNY RECOMMENDED THIS BOOK/THESE BOOKS TO ME. SO SORRY THAT SHE LEFT GOODREADS, AND SO EARLY ON. MISS HER!!!


Kelly H. (Maybedog) I read this book when I was a kid and all I remember was thinking it was weird (even though I read a lot of fantasy back then). Thanks for the review.


Lisa Vegan Kelly, That's interesting that you found it weird even as a kid. And I did now too, even though I love many children's books and many fantasy books. Do you remember if you read just this book or others in the series as well? I really wanted to love this, but though I loved a few lines and liked some of the characters, I just couldn't end up enjoying this all that much.


message 4: by Manybooks (new) - added it

Manybooks This is really a book where I really enjoyed the characters, the plot, the events, the ideas presented, but had trouble getting into the flow of the narrative. I still think that it might partially be the translation, because as I've said previously, I loved this novel when I read it in German. I wonder if it might also be the fact that it was the first of the Moomintroll books to be translated into English, that the translator was still trying to find the correct/best style (I also noticed that some of the chapters exhibited a much better flow than others).


Lisa Vegan Gundula, I think the translation might be the main problem for me. It was the writing style I didn't like, but I might have liked the original, or some other translation.


message 6: by Manybooks (last edited Jun 09, 2010 08:39PM) (new) - added it

Manybooks Lisa wrote: "Gundula, I think the translation might be the main problem for me. It was the writing style I didn't like, but I might have liked the original, or some other translation."

I found it really dragged at times and some chapters were more dragging than others. Also, in the chapter where the Moomintroll and his friends go fishing, I thought that the translator was maybe using rather old-fashioned words to describe the fishing/sailing process (actually, I did not like parts of that chapter at all, I felt really sorry for the poor fish, even though the end of the chapter was magical).


Lisa Vegan I'll look forward to your review, Abigail.


Larry Piper I think it does help to read Comet in Moominland first. I liked that, and also this follow-on, which made sense, in part, because I already understood the relationships. My spouse, who is much better read than I, did not much care for Comet in Moominland, and refused to read the next one. She said I'd be better served re-reading The Wind in the Willows. So, don't feel badly that this book didn't do much for you. It's one of those ymmv thingies.


Lisa Vegan Thanks, Larry. Good to know.


message 10: by Manybooks (new) - added it

Manybooks Beth wrote: "I tried Comet in Moominland and was disappointed -- I DNF'ed it. I was shocked that I didn't like it -- the story, from what I recall, sounded right up my alley. From what I remember..."

Some of this might be indeed due to the quality of the English translation. I loved Comet in Moominland in German (from the original Swedish) as both a child and an adult but found the English translation very distancing and distracting (and the rhythm tedious and dragging). And while I have not read Finn Family Moomintroll in German, when I tried to read it n English a couple of years ago, the same dragging and monotony was present (will have to find a copy of the German to check and compare).


message 11: by Lisa (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lisa Vegan Beth and Gundula, Maybe it was the English translation in the edition I read. If so, that's a shame. I also thought I'd really like it. I so wish I could read books in their original languages.


message 12: by Lisa (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lisa Vegan Beth wrote: "Well the Moomin books have been around for ages -- maybe someone besides Elizabeth Portch (who translated my edition, link above in comment #10) has translated the books into English."

That's a good point. I can see how these stories might be hard to translate.


message 13: by Manybooks (last edited Mar 02, 2017 08:33AM) (new) - added it

Manybooks Beth wrote: "Well the Moomin books have been around for ages -- maybe someone besides Elizabeth Portch (who translated my edition, link above in comment #10) has translated the books into English."

I have not found any other English language translations. There are different German translations, with the earlier translations from the 70s feeling at least for and to me more readable than the newer ones (however, I have also read that the newer ones supposedly are closer to Jansson's original Swedish texts, something that I personally cannot vouch for as I unfortunately do not read Swedish or at least do not read Swedish well enough to compare and contrast).


message 14: by Lisa (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lisa Vegan It's amazing how a translation can so drastically affect a book. It makes sense but until I got to know people and different editions at Goodreads I'd never given it enough thought.


message 15: by Manybooks (new) - added it

Manybooks Lisa wrote: "It's amazing how a translation can so drastically affect a book. It makes sense but until I got to know people and different editions at Goodreads I'd never given it enough thought."

I actually had not either.


message 16: by Lisa (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lisa Vegan Manybooks wrote: "I actually had not either. ."

Given that you're multilingual that makes me feel slightly better.


message 17: by Manybooks (new) - added it

Manybooks Lisa wrote: "Manybooks wrote: "I actually had not either. ."

Given that you're multilingual that makes me feel slightly better."


Unless one has actually studied translation, I do not think that this is by necessity common knowledge.


message 18: by Lisa (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lisa Vegan I guess not. Now we know.


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