“It was an early, very warm morning in July, and it had rained during the night. The bare granite steamed, the moss and crevices were drenched with moisture, and all the colors everywhere had deepened. Below the veranda, the vegetation in the morning shade was like a rain forest of lush, evil leaves and flowers, which she had to be careful not to break as she searched. She held one hand in front of her mouth and was constantly afraid of losing her balance.”
The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
On an island in the Gulf of Finland a grandmother and granddaughter deepen their relationship over big questions, like when do we die, or simple moments of being together and exploring the island. From the onset the reader knows that little Sophia has lost her mother and lives on the island with her grandmother and father. Her father barely registers with the reader as he always seems to be in the background working but it is Sophia’s relationship with her grandmother that is at the core of the book.
Their relationship isn’t all sweetness and light and thank goodness for that. Not that I’m opposed to comfy, sweet stories but it was so interesting to read a book like this one. Their relationship is filled with rebellion, arguments and strong wills but it’s also very honest and that is something that I thought was truly nice to see between an older adult and a young child. While at times it seems that the two are squabbling or at odds it is easy to see that there is a lot of love and care underneath it all.
While the book is not set in a diary format, you could easily make the case that the each of the chapters serves as an episode of a certain day or event that happens on the island. One time Sophia has a friend that comes stay with them and that doesn’t go very well, another time they trespass onto a neighbor’s property and so on. Each episode seems like another way for Sophia to learn something about her grandmother and life in general.
One of my favorite moments in the book is actually when a large storm arrives on the island and Sophia feels personally responsible for having brought on the storm as she had prayed God for it. When she finds out the chaos the storm caused she is beside herself thinking that she caused this and it is up to her grandmother to relieve her of the burden by telling her that she had actually prayed first so it was because of her that the storm came. Isn’t that a wonderful thing for the grandmother to have done?
I hadn’t read any of Tove Jansson’s books, although I understand she’s very well-known moreso for her children’s books, but it was really a delight to have read this one. If you have read it too join us over at the Slaves of Golconda to discuss it and see what others thought.