12.31.2010

book of the month

First of all, I want to say how much I loved this month's Book Club Bloggers Book of the Month, The Summer Book by Tove Jansson. It's a magical little book, full of the texture of wild nature and the leisure of slow-paced life imbued with a "grey and yellow" atmosphere that is so tangibly written that you feel yourself there. Perhaps I love it because I've always secretly dreamed of living a life somewhere quiet, doing something simple and with my hands. Such as keeping a lighthouse, farming the land, or fishing at sea and living on my own quiet island. I dream of waking up before the sun, taking pleasure in the quiet dawns before anyone else has awoken, watching the sunrise every morning. I dream of growing my own food and feeling the bodily soreness that comes with such painstaking labor. I dream of coinciding with nature, wearing Wellies and going out in the rain instead of quivering inside. I dream of watching the insects and animals and perhaps sketching them from a scientific as well as artistic point of view. I dream of a simple but hard life such as this, one I've never known and am probably too lazy and weak to ever really enjoy as much as I think I would. This book arises these dreams in me...

But back to the book...

*Spoiler Alert*
(Not that anything I say will actually ruin the story since their really isn't much of a story that can be ruined. But perhaps I'll say too much, reveal too much of the magic that would've been found on your own.)

It's a story of a little girl named Sophia and her grandmother who live on an island in the gulf of Finland, coming every Summer and leaving every Fall. It's a simple story, possibly simplicity at its best. It's told in a very straight-forward manner yet loaded with little jewels of wisdom that pop up here and there. 

In fact, The Summer Book is more like a collection of short stories rather than one long sweeping novel. It's told in little episodes that occur throughout the Summer between Sophia and Grandmother. And Sophia and Grandmother is where the magic lies.

The only other main character in this story is Papa, Sophia's father and Grandmother's son, but he's really more of a secondary character who's always there, but only in the background as more of a silent comfort who never speaks throughout the whole book. The story is all about the little girl and the old woman, two people with vast oceans of time and experience between them but who are alike because of this - both too young or too old to really be on their own. They are each other's playmates, co-conspirators, comforts. 

The conversations between the two are rather funny but also touching, often wise. In "The Cat" Sophia says "It's funny about love. The more you love someone, the less he likes you back." wherein she speaks volumes but merely about the cat who "was flattened with hugs, endured them politely, and climbed back into the dish box. He was entrusted with burning secrets and merely averted his yellow gaze."

Grandmother often has advice for young Sophia, such as in "The Neighbor" where she says: 

" 'No well-bred person goes ashore on someone else's island when there's no one home. But if they put up a sign, then you do it anyway because it's a slap in the face.'

" 'Naturally,' Sophia said, increasing her knowledge of life considerably." 

But then little Sophia has wisdom of her own when she talks about a worm cut in two and what happens with each half: 

"I think they looked at each other and thought they looked awful, and then crawled away from each other as fast as they could. And then they started to think. They realized that from now on life would be quite different, but they didn't know how, that is, in what way... Presumably, everything that happened to them after that only seemed like half as much, but this was also a sort of relief, and then, too, nothing they did was their fault any more, somehow. They just blamed each other. Or else they'd say that after a thing like that, you just weren't yourself anymore... It can probably remember it's other half which went first and made all the decisions... Should I go on following and never have to make any important decisions, or should I be the one who always knows best, until I come apart again? ...But maybe the front end thinks it's nice not having anything to drag around behind it... Nothing is easy when you might come apart in the middle at any moment." 

Repeat:  

"Nothing is easy when you might come apart in the middle at any moment."

3 comments:

Charlotte said...

"of angleworms and others" was my favorite chapter, by far. I love the little bits of wisdom Sophia shares, how the world is viewed from a sheltered six year old.

Glad you enjoyed the book and few its 'magic' as well!

plantmyappletree said...

A magical little book, this is so true, yes I guess I just "got" it, probably since I exactly know, what the writer is trying to capture.

It is like a photograph of Golden Gate Bridge. If you have never seen the bridge, it might not mean anything to the person looking at it. But if you have been there each photograph will hold a meaning.

Thankfully summers like this are not limited to Finland alone!

Molly said...

So glad you enjoyed this book!!
Looking at this book as a collection of short stories... just that could TOTALLY change my opinion of it.