Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Summer Book, by Tove Jansson

I had a chance to read a very wonderful book last month, thanks to joining up with the New York Review of Books books discussion at Good Reads. The first book that was picked was this short novel by the Tove Jansson. Jannson is pretty famous for her Finn Family Moomintroll childrens' books, though somewhat oddly, not so much in the U.S. I guess Astrid Lindgren of Pippi Longstocking  fame was our token Nordic writer for that era, but I do plan on reading them now.

The Summer Book is a series of related stories about summers spent on a small island off the coast of Finland that center around the lives of a grandmother and her granddaughter, Sophia. Sophia's father plays a somewhat peripheral role. Jansson's niece and her own mother were the models for this very wise book, and the whole family in fact spent much time out on these lonely but beautiful islands.

The discussion we had over on Good Reads was very thought provoking and we all found a lot of things to love about this book. I think for me what was most intriguing was the relation between the very old and the very young, which I think Jansson nailed. Life is a different thing when we are not in the midst of all the striving. I think these two states often have a lot to say to each other, though often in a subtle and indirect way. 

Check out this beautiful book if you get a chance. I actually read it in the "Sort Of" edition, which has a fair number of photos. The NYRB edition has a lot of her drawings.

You are spoiled for choice, really.


  1. I just ordered this, and two others by Jansson. I own one Moomintroll book. I may have myself a little TJ festival.
    I'm interested in what you wrote about a discussion at Good Reads. Could you tell me more?

  2. Hi Nan--

    Yes, if you click on the link in the first paragraph,you should be able to see the discussion pop up. It might seem a little slow at first, as people are ironing out the logistics, but it gets good as it gets going. Anyone can sign up for this discussion group and if you feel like adding to it after you read The Summer Book, I'm pretty sure there would be some response.

    For September we've moved on to Skylark by Dezsö Kosztolányi. Hard name, good writer. Feel free to join that one too. Here's the link.

    I do definitely want to read at least one Moomintroll book.