07 June 2008

200 word review: 'The Summer Book' by Tove Jansson

Before reading this book, the only thing I knew about Tove Jansson was that she created the Moomins. I know nothing about the Moomins, so that didn’t help me imagine what the book would be like. Thankfully, no prior Moomin knowledge is required as this is one of Jansson’s novels for adults, and a Scandinavian modern classic.

The style feels very strange. There’s no plot, just a series of anecdotes about summers spent on a Finnish island by a little girl called Sophia, her father (not a major character) and her Grandmother. Normally I hate books without a strong plot, but this was refreshing. It felt like summer: leisurely, warm and peaceful. Most of the action revolves around the relationship between Sophia and Grandmother, which is really charming. Old age and childhood are explored truthfully and without sentiment. Sophia comes out with funny comments, but this isn’t written in a patronising way, it’s just accepted as part of her youthful character. And Jansson portrays neither Sophia nor Grandmother with the usual saccharine saintliness. Sophia has tantrums, Grandmother is cantankerous, and they feel real.

If you need a nice light read without the usual sentimentality, I thoroughly recommend ‘The Summer Book.’

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