Book Reviews

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson | Book Review

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson | Book Review The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
Genres: Fiction, Scandinavian Literature
Original Publication Date: 1972
Source: I purchased this book
Find the Author: Website, Goodreads, Amazon

In The Summer Book, Tove Jansson distills the essence of the summer—its sunlight and storms—into twenty-two crystalline vignettes. 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. The grandmother is unsentimental and wise if a little cranky; Sophia is impetuous and volatile, but she tends to her grandmother with the care of a new parent. In The Summer Book, Jansson creates her own complete world, full of the varied joys and sorrows of life.

Each chapter in The Summer Book is a separate vignette detailing the lives of Sophia and her elderly grandmother on a remote Finnish island during the summer.

This book is not your ordinary novel. There is little plot.

Summer On The Island

Sophia and her grandmother are interesting characters. Sophia is difficult and selfish, but very smart. Her grandmother is cranky. Sometimes they really get on each other’s nerves!

Each chapter describes the flora and fauna inhabiting the island. We also find out how Sophia feels about other children, cats, and God.

Grandmother has physical issues. She walks with a cane and her legs cause her pain. Sophia spends much time running around the island on her own.

The only other regular character who appears is Sophia’s father, but he drifts in and out of the story and never says a word of dialogue throughout the book.

Sophia’s mother has apparently recently died, but there are no discussions about that. Grandmother and Sophia both cheat at cards, argue about God, and even do a little breaking-and-entering.

Summer in Finland

Final Analysis

As each chapter closes, we do not find out what happened later. The book really describes living alone on an island. They are truly isolated.

Despite their disagreements, it is obvious how much Sophia and her grandmother love each other.

In this wonderful video, Tove Jansson’s niece Sophia explains the importance of this book to her:

Further Reading

Here is a wonderful New Yorker article about Tove Jansson:

Inside Tove Jansson’s Private Universe

The Yale Review wrote about Tove Jansson’s Genius.

If you liked this review you might enjoy my reviews of Three Summers by Margarita Liberaki and The Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden.

Thank you for reading The Literary Lioness!

About Tove Jansson

Tove Jansson (1914-2001) was born in Helsinki, and was an illustrator and political cartoonist for the left-leaning, anti-Fascist magazine Garm. She created a long-running comic strip and a series of children’s books featuring the much-loved hippopotamus-like character, Moomintroll. She is also the author of eleven novels and short-story collections for adults, including The Summer Book and The True Deceiver. In 1994, she was awarded the Prize of the Swedish Academy.

I love books, writing, film, and television.

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