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The Summer Book by Tove Jansson

April 28, 2018

 

For those of you who enjoy Scandinavian noir in book form or on the television this book will be a significant change of pace but no less captivating.

 

For those of you who love beautiful writing and being transported in time and place then this is the book for you.


The book is gentle, very slow paced and not much happens and yet it holds you spellbound. At its core this book is about relationships, more specifically the beauty of intergenerational relationships and love. It is also about a profound love of and connection to the environment and the seasons.


Set on a tiny Finnish island, the two key characters are an elderly artist who is simply referred to as Grandmother and her six-year- old granddaughter, Sophia. Esther Freud, in the foreword, sets the scene “It is spring at the start of The Summer Book, and six-year- old Sophia wakes in the night and remembers she has a bed to herself because her mother is dead. Grandmother is nearby, and although old, her legs weak, her head dizzy, she is lively with wisdom and imagination. She is Sophia’s companion through the months ahead. They roam the island together, falling asleep under
bushes, musing on religion – “Are there ants in Heaven?” – and discussing the relative pleasures of sleeping in a tent.”

 

Tove Jansson wrote The Summer Book in 1972, the year after her own mother died. According to Esther Freud, “The Summer Book was, by all accounts, a favourite novel, and to create it she drew on the things that were most precious to her. Her beloved mother Signe Hammarsten, a graphic designer and cartoonist, her young niece Sophia, and the island home that she built with her brother Lars, Sophia’s father, and where she spent so many summers of her life.”

 

The author, Tove Jansson, while writing for adults, was also very highly regarded for her many children’s books and cartoons. She was also an accomplished illustrator and artist. If you want to find out more about her you can go to the website tovejansson.com and/or www.moomin.com

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