Ken's Reviews > The Summer Book

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
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Oct 23, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: classics-newly-read, finished-in-2010
Recommended to Ken by: NYRB
Recommended for: nature-lovers; Scandinaviaphiles, Moomintroll enthusiasts
Read from October 17 to 23, 2010

Imagine it's the dusk of your life and you've stumbled upon an old leather journal kept in your youth, its pages smelling vaguely of the sea. It describes your life on a Finnish island once upon a time around, say, the 1920s. Larger than life on its pages is your grandmother, a quirky spirited type who was a gamer with her at-times insolent and demanding 6-year-old grandchild.

Grandmother did odd things. She made animals out of driftwood and populated a forest with them. She got up in the middle of the night and wandered in the dark for the sea, just so she could catch sight of the hard-to-witness long-tailed ducks called scolders when dawn approached. She snuck cigarettes. If she was tired, she would lie down in the sand -- mid-adventure and all -- and go to sleep. She could man a boat and figure the weather. She was on intimate terms with the island's creatures, its insects, its moods.

Before long, you're sentimental as hell. It's another world you've stumbled upon, one both familiar and foreign thanks to time. What if, you wonder, what if you fixed this up, brought it to life again like God breathing into the lungs of Adam?

Such might have been the scenario for Tove Jansson when she created the persona Sophia to represent herself as a 6-year-old and wrote THE SUMMER BOOK. Episodic in nature and with some episodes stronger than others, the book will not entertain you with plot but is at peace with itself despite this. It is simply written. It is all about character and mood. It is a speak, memory kind of deal where you had better be a reader with patience and a love of nature. Also, if one relative had a huge role in your childhood, you're likely to relate. Sophia doesn't always treat her grandmother with respect and kindness, but there's an unmistakable bond here.

So, that's what it's like, or at least the best as I can describe it. The book is like reading a rewritten and well-polished journal. To expect more than that is to court disappointment, so if you read it, get yourself in leisurely, summer mode. You know, like you get on a July vacation where you forget what day it is and don't care what time it is, either. That's the book's approach, and in that sense, it becomes a perfect metaphor for both the season and the storybook time it recreates so well.
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Reading Progress

02/04 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Ken (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ken Let me know what you think, should you ever read it.


message 2: by Cathleen (new) - added it

Cathleen What a great review. I've just bought it, and I can't wait to start it.


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