07 June, 2009

Book 14 - The Summer Book, or: Finnish island whimsy

I read this book a while ago and didn't take any notes, so this post is going to be on the short side, sorry! But expect a few extra posts next week to make up for it.

Title: The Summer Book (1972)

Author: Tove Jansson

Why this book?
If Finnish writer Tove Jansson's name seems familiar to you, it's probably because you remember an idyllic childhood reading her Moomintroll books. I was talking about them with one of my workmates one day (because all librarians do is discuss books, obviously) and she mentioned that she had a book of Jansson's that she'd written for adults. Needless to say, I was intrigued, and she was happy to lend it to me.

What's it all about anyway?
The Summer Book is basically a series of episodes exploring the relationship between a young girl, Sophie, and her grandmother. Sophie's mother is dead, and she now lives with her grandmother and her father on an isolated island, by themselves. Whether Sophie is building her own forest, sailing to the prohibited neighbouring island, or reluctantly entertaining a friend of her own age, the grandmother shows unwavering love for her granddaughter, and a deep understanding of the frustrations and hopes of young life, even as she herself begins to feel her own life is starting to draw to a close.

The Good and the Bad
The characters of Sophie and the grandmother are based on Jansson's own niece, and her own mother. Jansson wrote this book after her mother's death, and her grief is at times tangible in her writing. This is not a depressing book, though - just surprisingly emotional. For the most part, Jansson's stories are whimsical, insightful, and often quite funny. Sophie is a believable child - curious without being precocious, kiddish without being twee, and always an attractive character, even when she's sulking. And the grandmother is also perfect - full of love and understanding, and yet an old woman who is subject to an old woman's fears, and despairs.

So should I read it or what?
This is a stunning book, and I highly recommend it!

Unrelated link of the day: Alice. If you had to explain Alice's Adventures in Wonderland to someone with only pictures and music, this is what you would use. It may be the trippiest thing on the whole of the internet. (Either that, or I am incredibly high right now.)

1 comment:

Sadako said...

Love Alice in Wonderland. Heh. That is one trippy link.