Page 45 Review by Stephen
"Susanna woke one morning
"Bored and confused and cross.
"She gave her cat a warning.
"She told it who was boss."
Oh, that will work out well - as anyone who's ever been owned by a cat will know well.
"You're old, Cat, and you're lazy -
"Too peaceful, too serene.
"Not me! I'm wild and crazy
"And I'm sick of all this green."
Okay, but be careful what you wish for, Susannah...! Uh-oh.
"I'd love it if some vandal
"Turned green to sparkling gold -
"Danger, disaster, scandal!
"What might our future hold?"
Danger and disaster as it happens, for when Susannah discovers a second pair of glasses in her green and pleasant land, it stops being either green or pleasant, but becomes a nightmare terrain of slimy swamps, eerie landscapes full of "hot red clouds", erupting volcanoes and birds flying backwards, upside down. There follows a frightful but also funny flight through a world turned topsy-turvy, but fortunately she encounters some familiar friends from Moomin Valley in the form of Hemulen, Snufkin, Sniff, Thingummy and Bob, and together, through foul weather, they plough their way back to the sanctuary of home.
I'm informed that this was the last picture book completed by MOOMIN's Tove Jansson (see also WHO WILL COMFORT TOFFLE etc) and, as before, British poet Sophie Hannah has worked her magic on a literal translation by Silvester Mazzarella to render the most extraordinary thing: a beat-perfect English-language version which manages to replicate the specific, mischievous wit and linguistic prowess of Jansson's original, and still it rhymes!
In fact it rhymes beautifully. Astonishing, really, especially given Thingummy and Bob's predilection for swapping bits of words round (clue - they've just encountered the volcano):
"Thingummy muttered, 'Flazing blame'.
"Bob said, 'It's hed hed rot!
"Smorld up in woke - a sheadful drame,
"When smorld is all we've got!'"
Shades of Lewis Carroll there, and that last line is particularly clever in retaining "smorld", for it makes no sense without its earlier accompanying swapsie, yet every sense, encapsulating their entire predicament: a world that's gone up in smoke.
If this is Jansson's very last picture book then in some ways she's come full circle, for MOOMINS AND THE GREAT FLOOD, her first, also featured a fearful journey outside of the safety zone of Moomin Valley as Moominmamma leads Moomintroll through equally unnerving, spooky and potentially dangerous landscapes in search of a lost Moominpappa.
THE DANGEROUS JOURNEY comes with a quite traditional structure: tranquillity enjoyed, tranquillity lost (well, actively rejected) then tranquillity ultimately restored after much penitence and strife, with the unspecified verdant meadows replaced by and upgraded to the tulip blooms of magical Moomin Valley. You'll note that the visual treatment of the two idylls is markedly different too: the first is serene, sedate, quaint, picturesque - what I might call country cottage - whereas Moomin Valley is a riot of cartoon effervescence.
There's no further mention of the strange second pair of glasses - they're not taken off - but the cat's back, still sleeping soundly, and is treated and greeted with a great deal more appreciation.
Sorry? Yes, belated spoiler warning, possibly, but as with many things it's very much the journey, not the destination.