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The Summer Book

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4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  4,657 ratings  ·  703 reviews
In The Summer Book Tove Jansson distills the essence of the summer—its sunlight and storms—into twenty-two crystalline vignettes. This brief novel tells the story of Sophia, a six-year-old girl awakening to existence, and Sophia’s grandmother, nearing the end of hers, as they spend the summer on a tiny unspoiled island in the Gulf of Finland. The grandmother is unsentiment ...more
Paperback, 170 pages
Published May 20th 2008 by NYRB Classics (first published 1972)
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Stoner by John WilliamsChess Story by Stefan ZweigA High Wind in Jamaica by Richard HughesThe Summer Book by Tove JanssonThe Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares
New York Review Books - Classics
4th out of 374 books — 344 voters
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Great Women Authors
76th out of 693 books — 146 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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s.penkevich
Jul 19, 2013 s.penkevich rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Beach readers of all ages
Recommended to s.penkevich by: Kirsty
Shelves: nature, europe
The forest was full of signs and portents, its own secret written language.

Tove Jansson, the world-renowned creator of the Moomintroll characters, succinctly harnesses the power and glory of a seaside summer season in the twenty-two elegant vignettes contained within The Summer Book. Here is a book in no need of magic or any other fantastical adornments as she reminds us that we can discover pure, beautiful magic in the natural world all around us if only we quiet our lives and open our eyes t
...more
Louisa
May 14, 2014 Louisa rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
A gorgeous and sumptuously told tale where you as a reader are immersed in a world of nature and simplicity. Six year old Sophia spends a summer with her grumpy and wise grandmother on a tiny island away from civilization. This gives the sassy and outspoken Sophia an opportunity to know her grandmother in an intimate way where together they embark on an adventure of sorts for there is much to explore in the way of beaches and forest. Investing their energies in getting to know the ins and outs o ...more
bup
This is the quietest great book I've ever read.

Every once in a while I read a book that makes me jealous, that makes me wish I could write and do what the book did. Like this one. It's a wisp of a book - brief, with no plot to speak of and only two real characters, no compelling crisis to drive the action, no suspense.

I almost cried when it ended.

It's like a watercolor of only four or five easy strokes, that you can't help but stare at for hours.

Yeah.

So, this girl Sophia and her grandmother, and
...more
Warwick

As luck would have it, there was a Tove Jansson exhibition on at the Helsinki Ateneum while I was in town – August marks the centenary of her birth. (It's still strange to me to realise that a hundred years ago is only the twentieth century now. To me, ‘last century’ still suggests Oscar Wilde, Thomas Hardy.) Amidst all the seascapes, moody self-portraits and Moomin sketches, I was fascinated by a video exhibit that showed a loop of grainy home-movie footage: Tove and her partner Tuulikki Pietil
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Aubrey
4.5/5
Say this: say I hate everything that dies slow! Say I hate everything that won't let you help!
There are many books I've read that, according to others, I should not have resonated with, the reason usually being that I am not old and/or have not experienced enough. However, years of intensive delving into fiction have honed my empathy to the point that a conjured "What if..." proves as potent as an actual happening, a heightened sense that, like any other, has equally powerful benefits and
...more
K.D. Absolutely
Jan 25, 2011 K.D. Absolutely rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
Shelves: 1001-core
Swedish-speaking Finnish Tove Jansson (1914-2001), author of Moomin books, was a lesbian. Coming from highly artistic family, she wrote and illustrated the famous "Moomin" children's book that came out after WWII when she felt like creating something "innocent." That children's book became the most popular series in Europe in the 40's and 50's.

Then came the death of her mother in 1972. Sad and grieving, she wrote The Summer Book which is now considered as a Scandinavian classic and has never bee
...more
Maciek
Every year, the bright Scandinavian summer nights fade away without anyone’s noticing. One evening in August you have an errand outdoors, and all of a sudden it’s pitch-black. A great warm, dark silence surrounds the house. It is still summer, but the summer is no longer alive. It has come to a standstill; nothing withers, and fall is not ready to begin. There are no stars yet, just darkness.

The Summer Book is one of Tove Jansonn's few novels for adult readers - I don't think many children would
...more
Agnieszka
"The summer book" is a wise,warm and beautiful novel in which old age meets with youth and practical wisdom with curiosity about the life.And no one comes out the same of that encounter.

Sophie,her father and grandmother used to spend their summer months on tiny island in the gulf of Finland.Let’s say it clear:father is loved and important,but somewhat overshadowed.He’s fishing,working,is an object of Sophie’s worry but he’s rather an emotion than real person.So we won’t be bothering ourselves wi
...more
Declan
This is a wonderfully subtle book which allows us to intuit much that is never stated. I was quite struck, for example, by the way Sophia wanted to use the term "Mama" when she was "Playing Venice". It seemed to me that she still needed to use that special word - see how it felt in her mouth now - and the game was a way of introducing it into the conversation. More generally I was impressed very much by the time given to observations: "It was just the same long summer, always, and everything liv ...more
Sue
I feel I have been overusing the word wonderful lately but The Summer Book is just such a reading experience. A grandmother and child and nature, all three somewhat wild and uncontrollable, live along with their son/father, during the summer, on a barren island they all love. This was written 40 years ago but is really timeless in its story of a child's unrelenting thirst for knowledge and stubborn daily brawls with the world at large. Most of her time is spent alternately loving, hating and hik ...more
Marieke
I am a sucker for crabby but kind old people and I'm equally a sucker for imaginative children who have no idea they are funny. Here i had one of each. The relationship between Sophia and her grandmother was some kind of wonderful...two mischievous souls together on an island keeping themselves busy and sometimes becoming cross with one another. This was my first Tove Jansson book and I dare say I'm hooked.
Fionnuala
One tiny island in the gulf of Finland comes to represent a complete world full of miracle and mystery, safety and danger as we are swept happily along through the adventures of a feisty, indomitable little girl and her refreshingly different grandmother.
Read this perfect little book and better still, give it to everyone you know for Christmas.
Greg
A wonderful book about all of the things that are probably important in the world.
Ben Winch
’Twas good! Sweet, short, subtle. So episodic it was like linked short stories, but the episodes taken together were far more than the sum of their parts. Really, this defies my critical abilities. I don’t want to criticise it. It sticks in my mind. I can see it. But it went down so smoothly it barely touched the sides. I take this to be a haiku-like ‘deceptive simplicity’, but until I read it again I won’t know what it hides. Maybe then I’ll love it. For now, liking it a lot will have to do.
Shovelmonkey1
Feb 04, 2012 Shovelmonkey1 rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone whose heart is in the sea
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list
This is not the sort of book I'd normally pick up - I think that's part of the joy of the 1001 books challenge - it has introduced me to so many books that I would normally walk straight passed in a book shop. It forces me to re-examine my all too fixed ideas about what I like, what I read and why I read it. Also reading from a list has clear appeal when it comes to my literary OCD.

Jansson is most universally famous for giving the world the gift of the Moomin Troll, those tiny pastel coloured h
...more
Caroline
What an amazing read. A story about a small Finnish island, and the people who live there over the summer. Mysterious, scratchy, tactile, warm, angry, tenuous, elliptical...and infinitely heart-warming. I speak of both the nature of the island itself, and the nature of the people who inhabit this deliciously 'other' Scandinavian world. Partly based on fiction, partly based on the author's own experiences - it seems to document some half forgotten memories in all our lives.

To us, the reader, the
...more
Ken
You have to applaud simplicity in writing. It is the hardest thing for a writer to achieve. That sense of keeping the book ‘small’ for lack of a better term, honing the story down to the barest strokes on the canvas. I always thought Hemingway did it beautifully with The Old Man and the Sea. Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson is another great ‘small’ book that draws you in with its perfectly simple prose and contstruction.

In many ways, Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book is closer to the latter. It
...more
notgettingenough
Doubtless all that can be said about this charming collection has been. I don't understand why it is called a novel - it's prose, it's longer than a short story, therefore it's a novel? In fact this is 22 small pieces contained and constrained by setting and character. Everybody will have the points in this book that stand out for them in some way. My bookmark has stayed here:

Here you come, headlong into a tight little group of people who have always lived together, who have the habit of moving
...more
Hadrian
This is incredibly relaxing.

These short stories detail a slow and peaceful island life, long summer days, grandmother and granddaughter. Detailed peace and the build-up of life moments. A painting built up from colored daubs. Reminds me of Studio Ghibli movies.
Blair
The Summer Book is a quietly beautiful, engrossing book, filled with serenity but also very funny. I loved the atmosphere, the sense of a very particular landscape, and the focus on the relationship between Sophia and her grandmother (I think Sophia's father only has one line of dialogue in the whole book). I've looked through others' reviews and I find it hard to say anything new about the book, which has been examined so eloquently by so many, but I will echo some of the things other reviewers ...more
Ivonne Rovira
May 18, 2014 Ivonne Rovira rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in a great childhood tale
Recommended to Ivonne by: Louisa
Sophia and her father and her 85-year-old grandmother move from their home elsewhere every summer to an island in Eastern Nyland in the Swedish-speaking part of Finland. In the book’s second chapter we learn that young Sophia’s mother has died, which is why they’re living with the grandmother, her father’s mother. The Summer Book consists of chapters on different vignettes that occurred over a series of summers.

I never knew my own grandparents, but I hazard that they were nothing like this contr
...more
Eddie Watkins
A novel masquerading as a series of vignettes that subtly and cumulatively evoke what Summer means to a 6 year old girl who spends every day in one form of imaginative play or another with her grandmother (who's enjoying something of a new birth as she nears the end of her life). Her days are spent on a virtually uninhabited island in the gulf of Finland at a summer house the family returns to year after year, and the stories are dotted with botanical and daily life specifics (such as tossing al ...more
SilverRaindrops
"The Summer Book" by Tove Jansson, telling about a grandchilds' and a grandmothers' summer vacations on their island, is praised as one of Scandinavia's modern classics, and it is easy to see why.
The novel brings a typical quiet Scandinavian summer to life; just the type of "still-holiday-but-also-something-else-entirely" that I remember having with my family when I was younger.

The chapters are quite short (ten pages at most I think), and one doesn't need to read them all in one go, which makes
...more
aidan w-m
Dec 13, 2014 aidan w-m added it
Shelves: nyrb, 2014, translated
only complaint is that it wasn't a thousand pages long. brief 'crystalline vignettes' (per back cover) with the meditative/relaxing effect i desperately need come finals week. not at all my thing normally: mostly functional prose, essentially no narrative momentum, lots of scenery-setting. a case of right book at the right time, i guess. sublime.
Nate D
A kind of philosophical dialogue between a 6-year-old girl and her grandmother, but refreshingly expunged of sentimentality. They're both at phase of their lives where they don't necessarily have to filter their thoughts, and can be given to pettiness, they're both very well-realized characters that explore Jansson's subjects elegantly. It's a series of vignettes really, more than a complete narrative (though it has a kind of arc), and the best part may be when 6-year-old Sophie gets upset about ...more
Antonomasia
The lingering memories of The Summer Book are of having dwelt for a while in a dreamlike idyll. Yet as with other similarly-affecting books, Brideshead and Le Grand Meaulnes , there is darkness too, deeper within the reverie.

The exquisitely-described landscapes of a small Finnish island are remoter and rockier and mossier and harsher than those of early twentieth century France or southern England. The peace and isolation are a holiday in themselves: it's something north european fiction does ve
...more
Amy
A few pages into reading "The Summer Book," I stopped for a moment and thought, "Now, this is lovely writing."

Composed of twenty-two short vignettes of the interactions between precocious six-year-old Sophia and her sharp-tongued, aging Grandmother, "The Summer Book" is compact, concise, and nearly perfect. The stories all contain a little sliver of wisdom, or truth, folded into the sometimes witty and sometimes banal conversations between granddaughter and grandmother, and Tove's observations o
...more
Rachel Aloise
What a treasure of a book. A new favorite! Here the summer island landscape delicately maps the private world between grandmother and grandchild. Tove Jansson depicts intimate moments of island life, where visitors always intrude, and the one family friend ‘never comes too close’ while scouring the sea for sunken treasure.

The Grandmother (as I fondly remember my own) is irreverent, wise, and grounded in the natural world. Her impish grandchild, Sophia, reminds me of Elsa Beskow’s children of th
...more
Trish
Jansson captures not only a season but life itself with this short novel of a grandmother and her granddaughter summering on an island in the Gulf of Finland. The freshness of spring turns to the muggy veil of summer, and when August comes, our feelings of ending and loss are those we experience every year in this month.

Grandmother remains unnamed, perhaps to preserve that essential privacy that she explains to her friend Verner must always be reserved. But her granddaughter Sophia is six years
...more
Jimmy
"If only people had known from the outset that everyone would be saved, they could have given the storm their full attention and admiration."

A novel centering on 6 year old Sophia and her grandmother. Completely won me over. The episodic nature of the book allows you to read these chapters in any order you want, they are almost like little short stories with recurring setting and characters... reminded me a little of reading Calvin and Hobbes. My favorite chapters were "The Pasture" and "The Cro
...more
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Tove Jansson was born and died in Helsinki, Finland. As a Finnish citizen whose mother tongue was Swedish, she was part of the Swedish-speaking Finns minority. Thus, all her books were originally written in Swedish.

Although known first and foremost as an author, Tove Jansson considered her careers as author and painter to be of equal importance.

Tove Jansson wrote and illustrated her first Moomin
...more
More about Tove Jansson...
Finn Family Moomintroll (The Moomins, #3) Moominsummer Madness (The Moomins, #5) Comet in Moominland (The Moomins, #2) The Moomins and the Great Flood (The Moomins, #1) Moominland Midwinter (The Moomins, #6)

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“It's funny about love', Sophia said. 'The more you love someone, the less he likes you back.'
'That's very true,' Grandmother observed. 'And so what do you do?'
'You go on loving,' said Sophia threateningly. 'You love harder and harder.”
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“It was a particularly good evening to begin a book.” 44 likes
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