Less than 20 degrees on a sunny day in June is just not right. Perhaps this was why, when seeking shelter from the rain in Daunt Books, I felt drawn to the cover and the title of Tove Jansson’s ‘The Summer Book’ illustrated with a idyllic retro photo of Scandinavian Summer seaside.
It doesn’t look particular hot I thought to myself, studying the landscape on the cover. But I know what the sun is like in Scandinavia. It burns, until you need to go for a swim in the dark blue ocean to cool down. Then after your swim, you’ll climb up on the soaring hot washed rocks, lay yourself out flat, stretch and dry up in the sun, before repeating it all, all over again.
The already through the very first pages it became clear that this was a book that would evoke many a childhood memory. If you haven’t had any childhood summers spent in Scandinavia, this is a book that in the least will give you a taste of what it is like. It will also give you a philosophical view, in that raw and natural Scandinavian way, on life.
The synopsis tells us that The Summer Book is about an elderly artist and her six-year-old granddaughter Sophia who 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.
The grandmother is unsentimental and wise and a bit of a character. Sophia is impulsive and naive, as children her age often would be. Together they amble over coastline and forest in easy companionship. They discuss things that matter to young and old alike: life, death, the nature of God and of love. “On an island,” thinks the grandmother, “everything is complete.”
The book is based on Tove Janssons own mother and her niece, who spent her Summers on the islands together.
Here is Tove Jansson, going for a swim on the island.
The Summer Book by Tove Jansson is worth its space on the bedside table – or on a lap in the deck chair out in the garden. If weather permits.