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The Summer Book (1972)

by Tove Jansson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,6391184,730 (4.18)1 / 467
"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. 20
    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 TÈ E L'AMORE PER IL MARE by Fazil Iskander (cometahalley)

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» See also 467 mentions

English (108)  Italian (2)  Dutch (2)  Swedish (1)  Norwegian (1)  German (1)  French (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (117)
Showing 1-5 of 108 (next | show all)
Perhaps children and the very elderly are closer to God, or at least closer to nature, because one is newly born and knows little and the other is near death and knows too much. While reading this sweet story of a grandmother and grandchild sharing their summer on a Finnish island, I kept thinking of them as opposite ends of a spectrum and yet as alike as two newly-minted pennies.

There is a kind of serene loveliness to this book, which is more a series of vignettes than an actual novel. It is summer and Sophia and her grandmother share adventures, break the rules, and befriend one another; one on a path of discovery and the other contemplating and sharing all the things she has gleaned over a lifetime. And, sometimes it is the young who have the wisdom.

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.

Jansson transports us to this island and helps us to see it through the loving eyes of a person who has known it forever and the wondering eyes of a person who is just discovering all its hidden treasures. I kept thinking of another work of this type, [b:The Country of the Pointed Firs and Other Stories|174198|The Country of the Pointed Firs and Other Stories|Sarah Orne Jewett|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1172425329l/174198._SY75_.jpg|639305], in which the natural environment is almost a character itself. [b:The Summer Book|79550|The Summer Book|Tove Jansson|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1390613592l/79550._SY75_.jpg|76813] gave me that same immersed feeling.

We end the book with the first indicators that fall is approaching.

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.

And we know, if the child does not, that the summers of her grandmother are limit; she has already passed into the autumn of her life and winter is nipping at her heels. But what a blessed thing this time is for them both, for Grandmother has a chance to see the wonder that her life has been and Sophia is building memories that will someday stand in for this person she must surely lose.

This is not a melancholy book, but there is a trace of melancholy that runs beneath its surface, and a current of joy as well.
( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
In The Summer Book, Tove Jansson tells the story of Sophia, a six-year-old girl awakening to existence, and her grandmother, nearing the end of hers, as they spend the summer on a tiny unspoilt island in the Gulf of Finland. The grandmother is wise if a little cranky; Sophia is impetuous and volatile, but she tends to her grandmother with the care of a parent. Jansson creates a world, full of the joys and sorrows of life.

Each chapter is a separate vignette and there is little in the way of plot. Sophia and her grandmother are interesting characters who sometimes really get on each other’s nerves. Grandmother has physical issues. She walks with a cane meaning that Sophia spends much of the time running around the island on her own. Living with them is Sophia’s father, but he drifts in and out of the story and never once utters a word of dialogue.

Despite their disagreements, it's obvious that Sophia and her grandmother really love each other.

I must admit that I enjoyed Jansson's writing style. Each chapter beautifully describes the flora and fauna inhabiting the island and I could almost feel myself there. It is a quick read, but the lack of structure also frustrated me making this an interesting read rather than a memorable one. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Jul 31, 2022 |
I will never give this book away. ( )
  adrianburke | Jul 31, 2022 |
The Summer Book - Tove Jansson
Audio performance by Natasha Soudek
4 stars

An NYRB edition of this book has been sitting on my shelf for several years. It’s a little book, translated from Swedish, about a six year-old girl, her grandmother, and an island. This seemed like the right time for this book. My son is expecting his first child next winter. I’m thinking about what kind of grandmother I’d like to be.

There is really no plot to this book, just short vignettes of day to day interactions between the generations.There’s little background information given about the characters in this book. From the beginning it is known that Sophia’s mother is dead. Even on the island, presumably a vacation home, her father is always working at his desk. Sophia and her grandmother roam the island together and independently. Some of Jansson’s descriptions of the setting are lyrical, almost like prose poems.

It’s such a quiet book, but it chimed for me in so many ways. The grandmother reminded me of my mother’s mother; a sharp speaking curmudgeon who was also willing to engage in creative projects to entertain her granddaughter. The six year-old Sophia made me think of my daughter at the same age; intelligent, highly verbal, demanding and emotional. My daughter was six when her paternal grandmother died suddenly and much too young. The book tugged at me with the message of the importance of elders in the lives of young children.

This book is introspective, contemplative. The child is always active, always questioning, trying to figure out the world and everything in it. The grandmother is in poor health. She spends time appreciating the beauty of her environment, remembering her past, and preparing for her death. Nothing very conclusive happens at the end. It’s just that summer is over.

I had an audio edition of this book as well as the paper. Soudek does a great job with the voice of the young Sophia. As someone who has known many, many six year-olds, I can vouch that their voices are cute, but frequently annoying. The audio of Sophia made me smile with recognition and affection. The paper text allowed me to appreciate the prose and its underlying truth. ( )
  msjudy | Jul 27, 2022 |
Charming and quietly profound. Grandmother steals the show. ( )
  dele2451 | Jun 22, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 108 (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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