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THE SUMMER BOOK by Tove Jansson


by Tove Jansson

Pub Date: April 28th, 1975
ISBN: 978-1590172681
Publisher: Pantheon

Ms. Jansson, who wrote those "Moominland" fancies for children, has directed her inventive hook-and-button plain talk at some adult concerns. In this series of brief dialogues and adventures of Grandmother (85) and Sophia (ten), the second childhood parallels the first in new awarenesses and incipient rebellion; but on the lonely way of the aging, hobbled by physical frailty, there are moments of sudden, inexplicable sadness. Grandmother and Sophia for the most part are honest contemporaries; they forage on their nearly isolated island, plot and explore, solemnly converse and flare up at one another: "Shall I tell [your father] how you were brave?" asks Grandmother. "You can tell it on your deathbed so it doesn't go to waste," says Sophia. "That's a bloody good idea," decides Grandmother. But while the family (the father is there but not heard from) goes about island survival and diversions—the lights of Midsummer Eve, drought, a flood and storms, an alien neighbor—Grandmother tentatively exposes herself to feelings about life and its endings: "Unless I tell [a tale from my youth] . . . it gets closed off and then it's lost." She is puzzled by an elderly friend's calm: ". . . don't you ever get curious? Or upset? Or simply terrified?" Old woman and child edge toward their own thresholds, and at the close Grandmother is resting and waiting. Spindrift perceptions, fresh and penetrating.