The Summer Book

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The Summer Book
AuthorTove Jansson
Original titleSommarboken
PublisherSort of Books
Published in English

The Summer Book (in the original Swedish Sommarboken) is a book written by Finnish author Tove Jansson in 1972.


An elderly woman and her six-year-old granddaughter Sophia spend a summer together on a tiny island in the Gulf of Finland exploring, talking about life, nature, everything but their feelings about Sophia's mother's death and their love for one another.[1]


The novelist Ali Smith, reviewing the book in The Guardian, wrote that Jansson was better known for her Moomin books than for her novels, and that with her worldwide fame, she knew the virtues of withdrawal. In Smith's view, The Summer Book is an astonishing achievement of artistry, "the writing so lightly kept, so simple-seeming, so closely concerned with the weighing of moments that any extra weight of exegesis is too much."[2] Telling the tale of the child and her grandmother in the simplest language, Smith writes, "The threat of brevity, even on this timeless island in this timeless, gorgeous summer, is very marked. But Jansson's brilliance is to create a narrative that seems, at least, to have no forward motion, to exist in lit moments, gleaming dark moments, like lights on a string, each chapter its own beautifully constructed, random-seeming, complete story. Her writing is all magical deception, her sentences simple and loaded; the novel reads like looking through clear water and seeing, suddenly, the depth."[2] Smith praises Thomas Teal's English translation as "original and stunning".[2]

The journalist Antonia Windsor described it as "like a meditation on life and love and surviving in the natural world. It is a wonderfully humane and gentle book."[3]

The New York Review of Books writes that Jansson's characters, the girl and her grandmother, "discuss things that matter to young and old alike: life, death, the nature of God and of love."[4]

The novelist Philip Pullman described the book as "a marvelous, beautiful, wise novel, which is also very funny."[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rayner, Richard (27 April 2008). "Dreams of an endless summer". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 28 May 2010. Retrieved 6 September 2012.
  2. ^ a b c Smith, Ali (12 July 2003). "The Summer Book by Tove Jansson". The Guardian.
  3. ^ Windsor, Antonia (12 August 2011). "Summer readings: The Summer Book by Tove Jansson". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  4. ^ a b "The Summer Book by Tove Jansson". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  5. ^ Jaggi, Maya (3 September 2005). "Runes of song". The Guardian. London.
  6. ^ a b Rix, Juliet (3 July 2010). "The Moomins – a family affair". The Guardian. London.