Rebecca H.'s Reviews > The Summer Book

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
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Jan 15, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: fiction

I enjoyed Tove Jansson’s novel The Summer Book very much and flipping it through it just now to prepare to write this post, I realized how much I would like to read it again. It’s a book that works quietly, and I think it’s easy to miss some of its effects on a first read. On a basic level the book is about a young girl Sophia and her grandmother, who live, along with Sophia’s father, on an isolated island in Finland. The fact that I noticed but didn’t ponder enough during the first reading is that Sophia’s mother has recently died. This is obviously hugely important, but the book is so quiet about it:

One time in April there was a full moon, and the sea was covered with ice. Sophia woke up and remembered that they had come back to the island and that she had a bed to herself because her mother was dead. The fire was still burning in the stove, and the flames flickered on the ceiling, where the boots were hung up to dry.

And that’s about all the book has to say on the subject, at least directly. But the signs of the mother’s death are everywhere. One of the first things Sophia says to her grandmother is “When are you going to die?” The grandmother says, “Soon. But that is not the least concern of yours.” Except that it is, because the grandmother is the most important figure in Sophia’s life. Her father lives with them doing some kind of work — the introduction to the book tells me it’s sculpture although I didn’t figure this out on my own — but he’s not much of a presence. A little later Sophia finds a skull, and she and her grandmother hang on to it until at the end of the day, they place it in the forest where the evening light catches it. Suddenly, Sophia starts screaming. There’s no explanation about why she does this, but something about the skull must finally have spoken to her about death.

Read the rest of the review at Of Books and Bicycles.
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Reading Progress

January 15, 2011 – Started Reading
January 15, 2011 – Shelved
January 15, 2011 –
page 40
23.53%
January 16, 2011 –
page 79
46.47%
January 17, 2011 –
page 120
70.59%
January 18, 2011 – Finished Reading
September 18, 2011 – Shelved as: fiction

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