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The Summer Book

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4.09  ·  Rating details ·  13,622 ratings  ·  1,767 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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4.09  · 
Rating details
 ·  13,622 ratings  ·  1,767 reviews


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s.penkevich
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
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
bup
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.

Yeah.

So, this girl Sophia and her grandmother, and
...more
Dolors
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
...more
Warwick
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
...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
...more
Teresa
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
Margaret
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
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.
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
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
...more
Tony
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
...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
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 ours
...more
Gabril
Jul 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Un piccolo libro pieno di nordica grazia.
Maciek
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
...more
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
...more
Kirstine
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
...more
Declan
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
Lee
Jul 19, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Greg
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.
Pat
Dec 02, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
“… una pianta la si sposta dove può stare meglio, per una settimana ce la fa a sopravvivere sulla veranda. Se si sta via più a lungo, la si affida a qualcuno che la bagni, e può essere un po’ complicato.
Perfino le piante diventano una responsabilità, come tutto quello di cui si ha cura e che non è in grado di decidere da sé.”


Una vita germoglia, un’altra appassisce. Nel mezzo tutte le tempeste e i bisogni e le assenze tessuti in un’organza di mestizia, ricamata con vaporosa levità e rarefatta iro
...more
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
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.
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 v
...more
Ettore1207
Tove Joansson è stata una famosa scrittrice di libri per l'infanzia, e questo Libro dell'estate non si discosta molto dal genere, è un libro per... bambini adulti e come tale va letto. E' scritto in modo semplice, piano, rilassante. I temi di fondo sono due: la natura e il trascorrere del tempo così come scaturisce nel raffronto fra l'infanzia e la vecchiaia. In un'isola sperduta nel Golfo di Finlandia, due stagioni di vita si compenetrano: la vecchiaia della nonna e l'infanzia della nipotina So ...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
Heidi
Jul 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Jos lukeminen on Sen Täydellisen etsimistä, minun ei tarvitse lukea enää yhtään romaania ikinä. Kesäkirja on täydellinen.

Patti Smith kirjoittaa Omistautuminen-teoksessaan, että hänen kirjoittajaunelmansa on: "Kuirjoittaa jotain hienoa, jotain itseäni parempaa, jotain mikä antaa merkityksen minun koettelemuksilleni ja hairahduksilleni. Todistaa, sinne tänne ryntäilevin sanoin, että Jumala on olemassa." Kesäkirja on sellainen. Todiste.

Tämän jälkeen tiedän, että saariston kesien pääväri on keltaine
...more
Ben Winch
Nov 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
’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.
Leah
Jul 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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).
Laura
May 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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NYRB Classics: The Summer Book, by Tove Jansson 2 47 Mar 15, 2019 07:23AM  
Play Book Tag: The Summer Book by Tove Jansson 3 16 Apr 30, 2018 12:00PM  
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Around the Year i...: The Summer Book, by Tove Jansson 3 31 Apr 15, 2016 12:15AM  
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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
“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.” 84 likes
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