Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Summer Book

Although best known for her Moomintroll books, Tove Jansson also wrote a number of books for adults including, The Summer Book. In a collection of seemingly unrelated chapters Tove Jansson captures the essence of living on a small rugged island in the Gulf of Finland for several months over summer. The main characters are the elderly grandmother and her young grand-daughter, Sophia. The grandmother's son who is Sophia's father is also on the island but usually remains in the background.

The book revolves around the relationship between the grandmother and Sophia as they explore their island and observe the natural and often minute changes that occur over time as Spring becomes Summer and then Autumn approaches. Together they observe the sea, the small animals and insects that inhabit the island, the moss and small flowers that appear and disappear. They discuss and have differing opinions about life and religion and change. There is also the presence of death throughout the book - the death of Sophia's mother, the cat who kills small birds and animals and the approaching death of the grandmother. We see the island on warm calm days and during storms and the celebration for mid-summer. This is a beautifully written book, often philosophical, often humorous, where the small things of life matter. The Summer Book was originally published in 1972 with an English translation in 1974. The English translation was republished in 2003, two years after the author's death.

The Guardian 12 July 2003 published a detailed review of this book.

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