A special adult Jansson

Tove Jansson. The Summer Book (SortOf Books 2003 (1974)).

Her favorite adult novel, an odd & oddly moving study of a summer made of many summers with a six year old & her grandmother (& her father but he’s mostly in the background) doing things together on a small island in the gulf of Finland, having magnificently strange conversations, & noticing the world, especially the little details of nature around them. Jansson (at least in this translation by Thomas Teal) achieves a cool distance in a seemingly simple style that nevertheless reveals more than you might expect of how (especially) the child perceives & understands the changes they both go through (although it also catches the old woman’s simplifying thought as she approaches her death, a precise cutting away of superfluities while she also enters the child’s vision of both the nature around them & herself). Written in the 70s & also looking back further, it devises/re-presents a world that feels, now, as distant as the medieval one. There’s wonderful humour, a terrific sense of the wavering devotion between the two (the kid can get angry but never loses her love for her grandmother; the old woman is deeply devoted, to both her place & her people, not least when she gets a bit impatient with her grand-daughter). It’s a story full of tiny stories that is really a meditation on the inevitable loss that love endures.

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One Response to A special adult Jansson

  1. Sheila Murphy says:

    I am quite charmed by this review, and you are drawing me toward the book, both for literary reasons and for the quality of the relationship that is described. The location appeals, and I’m eager to experience the read. Thank you!

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