02 November 2009

Summer Book, by Tove Jansson

Tove Jansson's Moomintroll books are extremely close and dear to my heart. I grew up reading them and they remain continuous part of my mental world in hundreds of little ways. Until recently, however, I had no idea that Jansson also wrote books for adults - and as soon as I heard, I went and bought one. I was not disappointed. Summer Book is quintessential Jansson - the same simple but evocative prose style, the love of nature and landscapes, the quirky characters, the interest in what it's like to be a child. The book is a series of vignettes, centering mostly around a little girl and her grandmother. There's no real overarching plot, but the book is nonetheless absolutely lovely.

What makes Jansson's books so amazing is that she has this deep love for people (or moomintrolls) but doesn't shy away from their negative sides. Her characters - especially the children - are frequently spiteful, selfish, vindictive - childish, in fact. They can also be sweet and loving. But they're pretty much always likeable and realistic, even when they're behaving like pigs. There's something really great about that, and it's a rare quality.

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