Thursday, April 15, 2021

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson

An elderly artist and her six-year-old granddaughter while away a summer together on a tiny island in the gulf of Finland. Gradually, the two learn to adjust to each other's fears, whims and yearnings for independence, and a fierce yet understated love emerges - one that encompasses not only the summer inhabitants but the island itself, with its mossy rocks, windswept firs and unpredictable seas.

This is a perfectly named book. It captures the feeling of summer for those of us lucky enough to grow up without parents urging them into summer camps or other improving activities. For those of us lucky enough to be allowed to have free days and nights and boredom pushing us to observe, discover, and play. In this series of vignettes we come to know a grandmother and granddaughter who provide all the human interactions with their tiny island, home, and each other. Neither is perfect and their imperfection is recognizable. They get mad, fight, cheat, try to help in the wrong way, and more.

It is a wonderful series of snapshots of real life where every situation doesn't tie up neatly or provide a life lesson, though some do. Very highly recommended with much thanks to my daughter, Hannah, who pointed me to this book. I hope she had enough summer freedom in her young days to recognize the feel in this book as much as I did.

Hannah and Scott Danielson discussed it on the Shelf Wear podcast. Their conversation made me pick it up to reread.

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