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The Summer Book

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  14,045 ratings  ·  1,809 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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4.09  · 
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 ·  14,045 ratings  ·  1,809 reviews

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Dec 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.


So, this girl Sophia and her grandmother, and
Jul 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Beach readers of all ages
Recommended to s.penkevich by: Kirsty
Shelves: europe, nature
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
Feb 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those with a child's glance
Shelves: read-in-2019
Why do only the very very young or the very very old have time to ponder what heaven is like? Or to bask in the simple act of diving? Or to invent stories about mice and worms and write a novel about a day in their animal lives?
Maybe because grandmothers are the only people in the world capable of educating using the art of playing and granddaughters are the only ones ready to play with grandmothers seriously.
This is, in short, what Tove Jansson portrays in The Summer Book, a summer that is no
Aug 12, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, finland

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
Richard Derus
Nov 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Rating: 4.5* of five

The Publisher Says: 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 unsentimental and wise, if a little cranky; Sophia is impetuous and volatile, but she tends to h
Adam Dalva
Oct 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Totally charming and remarkably deep little book - makes for a very happy afternoon. Jannson's talent shines through in her depiction of both the old and the young. The Grandmother and Sophia have much in common and the novel is revelation on how to write different ages with honesty and clarity. It's such a lean thing that it's not particularly worth pulling out individual episodes, but there are a couple of moments (Sophia's book on worms, a thwarted party) that will stick with me. Gorgeous des ...more
One time in April there was a full moon, and the sea was covered with ice.

Do you remember when you were a child, so many books were enchanting, casting a spell of wonder and reverence over you that you carried around long after the book was finished? Even if the book contained absolutely no magic or fantasy, but was "down to earth," about the lives of real people and "ordinary" experiences -- told in an extraordinary way? Then you "graduated" to "adult" books and began to wonder why really wonde
Jul 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
I'd temporarily put away The Horn Island Logs of Walter Inglis Anderson to get to other books and then this one arrived from the library. The character of Grandmother and the setting immediately called to mind Anderson and the tiny island of his nonfictional logs. Both Anderson and Grandmother live at times on an island where they are tolerant, though very wary, of outsiders. They find their place in the island world by observing the minutest of lives there, knowing they're just another small el ...more
Apr 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This thin volume composed of twenty-two separate and sometimes isolating sections (called “crystalline vignettes” on the back book cover) somehow holds a whole world. It’s set on a small island near Finland, where the family at the center of this book spends their summers. The family consists of Sophia, a six year-old girl, her grandmother, and her father, who is also the grandmother’s son. Conspicuously absent is the girl’s mother, who, we learn from a single reference to her in the second vign ...more
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.
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
K.D. Absolutely
Dec 21, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  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
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
Jan 08, 2018 added it
This is an episodic novel, twenty-two vignettes (a chapter each) of Sophia, Papa and Grandmother who summer on their own small island off Finland. It is a minimalist watercolor of a novel, meaning it's deceptively simple. Little things happen: a visitor comes in a skiff; a storm comes, too; a worm is cut in half; a cat acts true to its nature.

Told in the third-person, the perspective constantly shifts between young Sophia and her 85 year-old Grandmother. There are lessons learned, but not alway

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 ours
May 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2014
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
Neal Adolph
Last night I had the great pleasure of closing this book. That might sound like an odd thing to say for a book that I’m giving 5 grand yellow stars to, but pleasure is what I felt when I turned that final page and saw that the next one was blank, and that behind that was the front side of the back cover. My first thought was “this writer gets it.” This book leaves the reader satisfied. I wonder if I have ever appreciated that so much.

I suspect a lot of that comes down to the remarkable craft on
Jul 19, 2013 rated it liked it
I'm sorry, Tove. It's not you, it's me. I was all set to love this book but found myself too impatient to read it at its own pace, to unpack its subtleties. Too often I found myself zoning out or when I thought I was all set for a prolonged engaged reading session suddenly I found myself more interested in looking at my phone. The episodic structure reminded me of Bruno Schulz's "The Streets of Crocodiles," with the crazy grandfather replaced by a sane grandmother, with everything throughout may ...more
Some books are magic. In everything they do and say and are; they’re magic.

This is one of those books. It’s just a collection of small, everyday stories about Sophia, her grandmother and her father and the summer (or summers) they spend at their Finnish summerhouse. It’s not about anything in particular, the various stories follow each other without much reason, and there’s no overarching plot.

In the end it’s sort of about everything.

I can’t help but be happy I’m Scandinavian when I read book
Aug 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful book about all of the things that are probably important in the world.
Viv JM
The Summer Book is less of a conventional story than a series of vignettes about summers spent on an island by Sophia and her Grandmother (her father is there too, but only as a rather distant character). The events take place over more than one summer, but it is not clear how many, and there is no definite timeline, which gives the whole thing a rather dreamy and nostalgic vibe. Sophia was occasionally a little bit brattish, but I loved the character of Grandmother who was brusque to the point ...more
Jul 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
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 v
Jul 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Ben Winch
Nov 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
’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.
Jul 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Hmm... I would have to say that I'm between a 3-star (liked it) and 4-star (really liked it) rating. It took me several chapters to get into the flow as (stylistically) it was not what I was expecting. Once I realized that the story is really more about the crotchety old grandmother than the child, I began to fall under its charms (and having a very similar relationship with my own grandmother may have swayed me even further).
Diane Barnes
Oct 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A little girl full of spunk and her elderly grandmother full of wisdom spend summer days on an island, discovering nature and sometimes helping it along. Both of them have crotchety days, rebellious moods and use salty language. They are both creative individuals who tolerate and love each other. This is a quietly fascinating little book, and the author very deftly penetrates the minds and feelings of both the 6 year old Sophia and the 85 year old grandmother.
Betsy Robinson
May 31, 2019 rated it liked it
Despite some logistics confusion (where people were and when they changed locations—a house, a cottage, town, on an island or on one island looking at events on another island) as well as wondering whether one character was real or an imaginary friend, I liked this atmospheric tale about young Sophia and her increasingly old grandmother during their summers on a Finnish island. I particularly liked how Grandmother constantly took Sophia's guilt away by taking imaginary responsibility for things ...more
Jul 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
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
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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
“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.”
“It was a particularly good evening to begin a book.” 87 likes
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