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The Summer Book

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  19,670 ratings  ·  2,439 reviews
An elderly artist and her six-year-old granddaughter while away a summer together on a tiny island in the gulf of Finland. Gradually, the two learn to adjust to each other's fears, whims and yearnings for independence, and a fierce yet understated love emerges - one that encompasses not only the summer inhabitants but the island itself, with its mossy rocks, windswept firs ...more
Paperback, 172 pages
Published May 29th 2003 by Sort of Books (first published 1972)
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Miss Bookiverse I felt the same way! Then again Sophia doesn't seem to mature all that much? Of course, sometimes she's really feisty but other time's she's so obviou…moreI felt the same way! Then again Sophia doesn't seem to mature all that much? Of course, sometimes she's really feisty but other time's she's so obviously a child that it didn't make me believe that a year or more could've passed.(less)
Eva Měřínská
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Average rating 4.08  · 
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 ·  19,670 ratings  ·  2,439 reviews

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Dec 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Beach readers of all ages
Recommended to s.penkevich by: Kirsty
Shelves: nature, europe
My favorite summer reading recommendation:
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 o
Feb 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Adam Dalva
Oct 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Richard Derus
Nov 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
saw this one coming from a mile away.

review to come / 5 stars


have you ever picked up a book and instantly known it was exactly what you needed it to be?

huge 5 star energy from the first page
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
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.
Jul 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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 a
K.D. Absolutely
Dec 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
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

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  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Lee Klein
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
Apr 02, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, nyrb, nordic, fiction
I have limited patience with child characters and narrators, particularly when they are irritating, demanding and pouty, as is the 6 year old character, Sophia. Jansson modeled the character on her niece (yikes!). The grandmother, based on Jansson’s mother, is easier to digest, because who doesn’t enjoy a sarcastic, cantankerous senior who once shouted “Quiet! Or I will throw up on you!” when the kid wouldn’t stop fussing?

The island setting is based on an uninhabited Finnish island where Jansso
Aug 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
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  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful book about all of the things that are probably important in the world.
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
Diane Barnes
Oct 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
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
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
Caroline Ellis-Ballinger
Jul 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: tbr-wishlist
This is a quirky read. A Grandmother and her granddaughter spend a summer on a tiny, remote island off the Gulf of Finland. They get up to mischief, have lots of discussions and disagreements and generally put the world to right. I was really taken by this little book. An interesting and unique read.
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
May 22, 2018 rated it liked it
I'm a bit torn about rating this book. I enjoyed the stories, many of them were particularly touching. However, the stories didn't connect well, I thought and at the end (view spoiler). I think she did. With that thought in mind, these stories are particularly poignant.
Sophia is a strange child. Likeable, sweet....then she yells and is rude and disrespectful to a woman who is always there for her.
I did enjoy the writing and the descrip
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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

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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.”
“It was a particularly good evening to begin a book.” 101 likes
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