The Summer Book

I am a notorious evangelist for my favorite books and things. Whatever my favorite thing is, if you know me, you can be pretty sure I will be talking about it to you at a rate that will make you question my narrow avoidance of an autism diagnosis. I always have a current favorite thing, but some books1 become something more than that: they get added to that interior shelf of me-ness from which I pull current wisdom and address the world in analogy.

Over the weekend, I shelved Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book there. I read this book as I was trapped in transit for two days in Burlington, VT due to storms in NYC2 and I fully admit I probably liked it more due to the insane sense of belonging to another world you get when Delta strands you in a strange place without your luggage, which somehow manages to also change your perception of time and your position in the world.3 The uncertainty brought on by disrupted transit probably made me more able to go to the island, because I was already floating along in a boat adrift.

Anyway. I love moomins, both as I experienced them through the lens of Japanese infatuation, and through my bizarre association of them with Thunder Bay, Canada, which has a lot of Finnish heritage. I like a lot of the humor of the moomins, and in part that’s what I like about The Summer Book, so it’s not that surprising that I ended up liking it.

But I think it’s something more than that which I am struggling to give a name to that I love in this book. For one, it’s a kind of wishing love: wishing you had an island, and summers like that. It’s exactly what an island and a summer should be. That’s the kind of “boxcar children” love I had as a kid for so many books, that sense of wishing to really go there. Few books are like that for adults, but this one was for me.

I also loved how extremely trusting the author is with getting her message through. Nothing is ever said about the anxieties of Sophia and her fears relating to her mother’s death, but they’re so clear they sing.

And then you have to just adore the wit of it. Sophia’s book. The section about Moppy.4 I do want to know what other people think about that ending though.

Anyway you should read it.

  1. Previous all-in evangelizing manias have concerned, notably, In The Land of Pain, The Secret History, The Time Traveler’s Wife, and The Marie Cycle. No one will read The Marie Cycle even though I swear it’s amazing.
  2. The absolute absurdity of being frustrated by weather somewhere else is something really difficult to explain. It’s weird how you can intellectually know that it makes sense but your injustice-meter is just full of rage.
  3. I’m pretty sure there’s a twilight zone episode in the alternate universe I entered in that Best Western pool.
  4. Of course.