The Summer Book is a real genuine feel-good book. It has been excellently translated from the Swedish by Thomas Teal. It tells the story of an old woman who spends the summers on a tiny island in the Gulf of Finland with her six-year-old granddaughter. They enjoy being together; have some kind of understanding of one another. They live a plain, ordinary life, and do what ordinary people do in Scandinavia when they areat their cabins by the sea. So the story is very recognizable and feels very authentic. They wander around, look at things, pick flowers, watch storms, take an occasional trip in a rowing boat to a neighboring island, watch the cat, and do ordinary things.
However, in all they do, all the ordinary observations, there are deeper truths, larger contexts, and more to be understood. And somehow those larger truths, that wider perspective quietly emerges in this delicious book by Tove Jansson. It is not a book that preaches, not a book that teaches – just a book that tells a quiet tale in a delightful way and at the same time, almost unnoticed, reveals the significance of what is happening in a light, sweet and tender manner.
This, of course, is Finnish Tove Jansson’s special talent and quality, this is exactly what has made her Moomin children’s books what they are – something more than just sweet stories, stories, perhaps, with a deeper meaning.
The book is full of wisdom, imparted by a wise old lady to a member of the younger generation. Coming across a sign saying “NO TRESPASSING” on a nearby island, the grandmother tells her grandchild: “No well-bred person goes ashore on someone else’s island when there’s no one home. But if they put up a sign, then you do it anyway, because it’s a slap in the face.”
Jansson is an excellent writer and tells her stories in a straight-forward and simple manner. Even so, they are stories deserving of considerable pondering and reflection. They contain wisdom, and at times perhaps the wisdom of an age that is disappearing as we speak – but even so, knowledge very deserving of some careful consideration. I loved this book, so full of superb descriptions, and rich with everyday philosophy, beautifully and quietly told, and gently filled with compelling food for thought. The Summer Book is a little treasure!
“Poetic understatement, dry humor and a deep love for nature are obvious throughout her oeuvre…. The book is as lovely, as evocative as a film by Hayao Miyazaki.” –Time Out New York
“A wise, joyous book…it unfolds the knowledge and the beauty of the two lives it embraces–old wisdom and young discover, intertwining like vines.” –Rex Reed
“A…beautiful novel which blends humour and poetry with detailed observation of tiny things.” –Daily Mail (London)
“Every so often, a book is published that captures something in us…The Summer Book is one of those.” –Daily Telegraph
“The Summer Book is beautiful and warm, with the kind of wisdom we can adapt to our everyday lives.” -Liv Ullmann