Monday, 9 July 2012
The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
In short compact chapters we hear about 6 year old Sophia and her summer with her grandmother on a small island in the gulf of Finland. As each day is whiled away in the sunshine life becomes microscopic in its detail as well as vast in its imagination. Sophia, under her grandmothers guidance, is finding her individuality. Every day brings an adventure. A storm, a cat, a visit, a boat trip, a game. The house belongs to nature as much as to them, the island is a wilderness to be explored, the summer ticks on and life is changing rapidly for both of them.
The narrator is in the third person but much of it is Sophia's young view of the world. Her wide eyed wonder and cautious sense of adventure is coupled with her grandmothers wisdom and gentle encouragement. There is deep love between them but not without the usual frustrations and tiresomness that comes with living close together. All of this is explored and relayed to us in economical prose conveying the simple truths of the relationship with each other and the island.
Warmth comes not only bounding from the rocks by the shore, but from the tangible heart of this story. It is no surprise that Jansson drew on her own experiences with her grandmother as a child because this feels personal, as if we have been given an intimate glimpse through a keyhole at a private and beautiful time between these two people generations apart.
You can probably tell that I loved it, it was a complete treat to be able to dive into their world in short bursts. It was funny, poignant, moving (but never sentimental) and an adventure for me as a reader. I could feel the heat of the sun, hear the sea lapping the jetty, smell the plants, imagine the course stones and rocks, but this was only part of it. This book is about people and how they get on with each other. The subjects were so simple and yet completely involving and it was one of those books that I was sad to leave behind at the end.
Beautiful, and highly recommended. A rare treasure.