The Pequod Review:
Tove Jansson's Fair Play has a similar structure to The Summer Book (1972), in that it is a series of episodic sketches that describe the close relationship of two individuals. However, it is less cohesive than its predecessor and the pieces have a cumulatively weaker impact. The narrative primarily revolves around the lives of two women, one a writer and one an artist, both sharing an apartment building near the Helsinki harbor. Over seventeen chapters, the book explores various moments in their lives: watching movies together, sharing a love of coffee, taking boat trips into the harbor, and encouraging each other in their artistic projects. The story seems to have been based on Jansson’s own relationship with a female artist, and the book has many fine moments describing the creative life:
There are empty spaces that must be respected — those often long periods when a person can’t see the pictures or find the words and needs to be left alone.
Mari was hardly listening. A daring thought was taking shape in her mind. She began to anticipate a solitude of her own, peaceful and full of possibility. She felt something close to exhilaration, of a kind that people can permit themselves when they are blessed with love.
The True Deceiver and The Summer Book remain Jansson’s finest works, but Fair Play is recommended if you enjoyed those books.