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The Summer Book (1972)

by Tove Jansson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,4361114,765 (4.18)437
"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." -- Publisher's description.
  1. 41
    Moominpappa at Sea by Tove Jansson (Jannes)
    Jannes: Janssons kärlek till den finska skärgården är mycket tydlig i båda dessa böcker som trots sina ytliga olikheter har mycket gemensamt.
  2. 10
    Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury (Jannes)
    Jannes: Interconnected stories abour childhood and endless summers. Bradbury is more fantastical, while Jansson leans more to the realistic and understated, but both books runs over with wonderful and lyrical prose, and both captures a sense of childhood and summer i a way that is very rare.… (more)
  3. 00
    A Bird in the House by Margaret Laurence (Cecilturtle)
    Cecilturtle: A similarly constructed series of connected short stories told through the eyes of a young girl.
  4. 00
    The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa (pitjrw)
    pitjrw: Unusual, beautiful relationships between the old and young
  5. 00
    Suddenly in the Depths of the Forest by Amos Oz (cometahalley)
  6. 00
    First Teacher by Chinghiz Aitmatov (cometahalley)
  7. 00
    Melodia della terra: Giamilja by Cingiz Ajtmatov (cometahalley)
  8. 00
    The Year of the Hare by Arto Paasilinna (jonathankws)
  9. 00
    Il te e l'amore per il mare by Fazil Iskander (cometahalley)

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» See also 437 mentions

English (101)  Italian (2)  Dutch (2)  Swedish (1)  Norwegian (1)  German (1)  French (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (110)
Showing 1-5 of 101 (next | show all)
This is wonderful. ( )
  auldhouse | Sep 30, 2021 |
Such a quiet book, with no plot to speak of-- but utterly vivid. As you read it you are transformed into its characters. The specificity, beauty, and imperfection of the little island world with its comforts and alien magic will make you nostalgic for a childhood not your own. ( )
  misslevel | Sep 22, 2021 |
‘’One time in April, there was a full moon, and the sea was covered with ice. Sophia woke up and remembered that they had gone back to the island and that she had a bed to herself because her mother was dead.’’

Sophia and her grandmother spend the summer on a small island in the Gulf of Finland. the child is difficult, at times impossible. She is also charismatic, inquisitive and absolutely brilliant. Grandma is wise, opinionated, feisty and protective. Through their tempestuous relationship and the wild beauty of the landscape they call ‘home’, we witness the bond and the gaps between the generations, we watch the marriage between humans and Nature, and, quietly, we may begin to turn our eyes inside us, on our relationships and priorities.

‘’Well’’, Grandmother said, ‘’it did die now, all the same.’’
‘’How did it die?’’, Sophia yelled. She was very angry.
‘’Of unrequited love.’’

In 22 short chapters, Tove Jansson paints a world of ‘magic’ forests, silent steps and cries, driftwood and seaweed, summer winds and evening light. Of the full moon and the unpredictable sea, of a grandmother that always stands her ground, a child that wonders how God can keep track of all the people who pray at the same time, who prays to be brave, who tries not to get bored, who struggles to find her world bereaved of her mother while her father is a silent, almost absent, figure. The island is there, watching and listening while Sophia struggles to make sense of the world that opens before her and her grandmother tries to understand the ‘noise’ that humans create unnecessarily.

“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.”

Beautifully translated by Thomas Teal. The Introduction by Kathryn Davis did not do justice to Jansson’s work, in my opinion.

‘’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.’’

My reviews can also be found on https://theopinionatedreaderblog.wordpress.com/ ( )
  AmaliaGavea | Aug 15, 2021 |
I found The Summer Book by Tove Jansson a delightful read. The author writes about the special bond that grandparents and children share as she offers up an assortment of adventures and stories about 85 year old Grandmother and ten year old Sophia. They are spending their summer on a small, remote island off the coast of Finland. Sophia's father is with them, but he is kept in the background throughout the book. Although separated by years, these two are boon companions as they argue, fight, laugh, plot and explore together. Grandmother is near the end of her life and is dealing with the anxieties of aging and coping with physical frailty. Sofia is just starting to expand her horizons, and learn about the workings of the world yet they compliment each other and feel free to express their opinions to each other.

Although my relationship with my granddaughter is quite different from the one portrayed in the book, I was reminded of some of our early conversations, before the child learned to guard herself and not expose her feelings directly. At times conversations between Sophia and her grandmother were deep and meaningful, at others light and completely random. I smiled a lot through this book but I was also touched by emotion at times as well.

The author has captured the relationship between these two, but she has also painted a picture of island life and the beauty of nature. From sunlit waters to stormy seas, her language is simple, descriptive and magical. The Summer Book was an excellent reflection of life and a joy to read and one that I was disappointed to see end. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Jul 1, 2021 |
I finished this book yesterday, but I cannot let go of it. I loved the portrait of childhood against that of aging – the child and the grandmother seem to have met in that curve of life, even if one was climbing it and the other was descending it. It left me too with a sense of nostalgia for my own grandmothers, which were never as quirk as the one in the book, but that at moments allowed themselves to break the rules, to eat dessert before the meal so to speak.

Without planning, I have read a few books in the last little while which portrait the old, or aging. Maybe there is more than serendipity in my book choices… I don’t know…
( )
  RosanaDR | Apr 15, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 101 (next | show all)
In Why Read the Classics, Italo Calvino defines a classic as "any book that comes to represent the whole universe, a book on a par with ancient talismans". He indicates how a classic book reduces the noise of the contemporary world to a background hum when we read it, and conversely is always itself there in the background "even when a present that is totally incompatible with it holds sway".
The Summer Book is a world apart. It is very good to have it.
added by DouglasAtEik | editThe Guardian, Ali Smith (Jul 12, 2003)

» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jansson, Toveprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Davis, KathrynIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Freud, EstherForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Giorgetti Cima, CarmenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kicherer, BirgittaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kivivuori, KristiinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Teal, ThomasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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It was an early, very warm morning in July, and it had rained during the night.
Che cosa strana è l'amore, disse Sofia. Più si ama l'altro e meno l'altro ti ama.
È assolutamente vero, osservò la nonna. E allora che cosa si può fare?
Si continua ad amare, disse Sofia minacciosamente. Si ama sempre peggio".
Grandmother walked up the bare granite and thought about birds in general. It seemed to her no other creature had the same dramatic capacity to underline and perfect events -- the shifts in the seasons and the weather, the changes that run through people themselves.
Eriksson was small and strong and the colour of the landscape, except that his eyes were blue. When people talked about him or thought about him, it seemed natural to lift their heads and gaze out over the sea […. A]s long as he stayed, he had everyone's undivided attention. No one did anything, no one looked at anything but Eriksson. They would hang on his every word, and when he was gone and nothing had actually been said, their thoughts would dwell gravely on what he had left unspoken.
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"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." -- Publisher's description.

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