Friday, May 26, 2006

The Summer Book - Tove Jansson

Tove Jansson's The Summer Book is not really a children's book, nor really a novel, it is a biographical novelisation of the summer months that Tove Jansson's mother spent on an island in the Gulf of Finland with Tove's niece Sophia. This is a story about a young girl and an old woman and how they learn to live with each other, and the isolation of a tiny island home. It's also a moving exploration of how to deal with the approach of death. Grandmother and granddaughter discuss whether there are ants in Heaven, bravery and the joys of sleeping out in a tent; they draw awful pictures, build a miniature Venice in the marsh, creature animal sculptures, deal with a tremendous storm (which Sophia believes she caused by praying for something exciting to happen), and explore a newly built house that blocks their horizon. This is a gentle, charming and beguiling book that is beautifully written and translated.

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