500 Great Books By Women discussion

The Summer Book
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Chosen By Fellow Goodreaders > The Summer Book - Tove Jansson - Sue

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message 1: by Aubrey (last edited Aug 28, 2014 05:12PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Aubrey (korrick) | 2004 comments The Summer Book, Tove Jansson, translated from Swedish by Thomas Teal, 1972, Finland, NOVEL

"...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....."

(Sue, review)

Review Medley

message 2: by Fionnuala (new) - added it

Fionnuala Wonderful little book - thanks for adding it, Sue.


Aubrey (korrick) | 2004 comments Thanks for your review, Fionnuala. It's been inputted above.

Bjorn | 32 comments There's an article here about some of the background for the novel, the island home that Jansson and her girlfriend built in the 60s, as well as some pictures of it. Translation of some relevant bits:

The island is far out to sea, isolated from civilisation, a fly turd on the map, occupied by fierce terns. If there's a storm you'll find it difficult getting ashore, let alone back home.


Tove Jansson moved to her island Klovharun in 1965. She built a house together with Tuulikki Pietilä in a large hole, blasted into the mountain. They were helped by some sailors from Kråkö, Sjöblom and Brunström. Of the latter, it was said that he was a pirate who travelled from island to island in a boat with no name. At least that's how he's portrayed, under a fake name, in The Summer Book.


One of the locals tried to stop the construction at the last moment, as it was feared that her moving in would disturb the cod population in the area.


Even before the house was finished, Tove lived in a tent on Klovharun, where she edited Moominpappa At Sea. It's perhaps the best of the Moomin books, but it also marks a change in her writing. The Moomin family leave their idyllic valley and move to an island with a lighthouse in the middle of nowhere (according to the coordinates in the book, the island is close to Klovharun). It's almost a psychological thriller.

The tiny house is about fifteen square metres.


Isolation is the recurring theme in Tove Jansson's writing. (...) She never got to be alone on Klovharun. In 1969, she wrote in her diary: "Seventeen strangers came out from E to have coffee, drinks, lemonade, talk, and 'look at me.' Kiss my arse. "


Tove Jansson and Tuulikki Pietilä lived together on the island, but in town they had a separate apartment and a studio, connected by a walkway in the attic. Very practical.


Klovharun shines through in her books, especially her adult books. Reading the suggesive short story "The Squirrel" in the collection The Listener from 1971, it's obviously partly her house she's describing. Here's a woman living alone in a house on an island with windows in all directions: "All the pots in a straight line over the stove, all the books next to each other on their shelves, and on the wall her nautical instruments, these strange decorative objects that you just might need to survive in a wintry sea."

In her book Fair Play, there's a description of a more dramatic incident on the island. The armed forces had shooting practice, and a grenade landed only ten metres from their house. Tuulikki drew white rings around the holes.


Tove Jansson left Klovharun permanently in 1992. She was 78 years old and left the house for visitors, to come in and warm themselves during autumn storms. (...) When there was a break-in in the 80s, she wrote in a letter: "The bastards never realised that the key was right there, hung next to the door."

Aubrey (korrick) | 2004 comments Thanks for all the wonderful information, Bjorn. I really do need to get to reading Jansson already.

message 6: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue | 56 comments Thanks for all of the information Bjorn. I have more of her books on my list to read and plan to read The Summer Book again someday.

message 7: by Fionnuala (new) - added it

Fionnuala Thank you for all that info, Bjorn. It fits with what I gathered from reading the stories in A Winter Book. Most of the stories are set on a tiny island off the Finnish coast, probably Klovharun, but there is no little girl and no grandmother, just a middle aged woman living alone. Those stories are about self sufficiency, quite a fantastic notion now in our fiercely consumer oriented world of today. There are some out and out gems - The Squirrel, which Bjorn mentioned, and a really fine story about an iceberg, plus one called Travelling Light.
And the final story about accepting the incapacities of old age, along with the losses of freedom they bring, was very sobering. How can we hope to escape all that if even the intrepid, fearless Tove Jansson has to bow to age? But we do, don't we...
(That was more or less my review...;)

Aubrey (korrick) | 2004 comments I'm submitting my review for this: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

Nate D (rockhyrax) Mmm, thanks for the details. Lovely, wise book.

message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

yeah, awesome article bjorn, thanks. think i'm going to read all of tansson's novels/short stories.

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