25/52 Tove Jansson: Sommarboken (1972) is to start my summer reads series. And what could fit to this category better? This is so far the best attempt to put summer between covers and a successful one. The essence of summer is as I can remember my summers from childhood: Long days, sometimes even a bit too long with nothing special to do. Time was to be spent, wasted even, not to be preserved or managed. Nature was in bloom and we picked flowers almost every day. There were new flowers to be found daily and we were curiously wandering in nearby woods. We went to the beach, there was a long path through the woods that lead to the water. There we lay and swam, juice in a bottle and maybe chips or some other snack to keep salt levels up in the heath. I went to the library many times every week and took huge piles of books. I remember once that me and my friend went to the library and took tens of books. We were amazed by all the titles and fun stories and we had time to read. Though I had challenges taking all those books home, something that has not changed ever since. In Finland, that time, the summer holiday from school was 2 and a half months. Two and a half moths to spend with friends, summer around us, no duties. It sounds like a universe far away!
And Tove Jansson gets this all. There is a young girl with her grandmother and they have a whole summer to spend together. They mix together what is real and what is imagined. They make their own magic world by looking carefully what is around them. In the haunted forest there are skulls and other creepy things. They know birds that die for their love. The old and the young one imagine and play together. They have no boring limitations. Summer gives the best environment to find a door to this world of fairytales. At times they go too deep to their imaginary and one has has to pull other one out when it becomes too exciting. All kinds of days have their own activities and moments of fun. Nature is not the same for two days it changes itself for every morning creating a new scene. It is like in my childhood, every weather had it's own character. Rainy days were for reading under the blankets listening for the rain. Sunny days were for biking and exploring the streets, biking pass the suburbs, countryside, fields, pretty yards and forests. Young girl Sophia has secret places, she spends a night in a tent, goes swimming and explores the attic. Her grandmother keeps her company as they are on a summer cottage in an island in coastal Finland.
In the eyes of the child adults are tired. They want to sleep all the time. I remember this too from my childhood. One is like an energy factory that has endless amounts of capacity to go and play. I was all the time doing something and it was very difficult to comprehend why adults didn't have energy to participate 24/7 or why they sometimes were absent-minded. Sophia sees everything clearly as only a very young person can. When her grandmother escapes from her son to smoke Sophia comes after a minute to her hide knowing exactly where she is and what she is doing; smoking secretly from her son. Children have no expectations how things should be and thus they seem to see things as they are. They observe and see what adults are trying to hide or don't want to see in each other. The grown up son doesn't want to believe that his mother goes to hide in cave for a smoke but granddaughter can see it. If Sophia is frank because she hasn't yet taken the boring manners of adults, then her grandmother is frank because she is beyond caring. She has shaken off all the norms and good behavior. Now she gets to say as she thinks and be as annoying as she wants. In her character it is pictured in a fine way how adults want their own space and privacy, something that is difficult with kinds that are curious and energetic all the time. Sometimes adults want to be in their own thoughts, hiding, without the role of a grandmother who has to answer to every demand. This grandmother goes to smoke in cave or buries herself under the moss in the haunting forest. She has a need to rest, she knows world will go with it's own pace even without her taking part of it.
These peculiar friends, young girl and her grandmother are careless and irresponsible. They do what comes to their mind and don't ask a permission. It is not clear at all which one is taking care of the other, maybe they are a pair that survives together filling each other's weaknesses. They express things in a blunt way. It is impossible not to laugh for grandmother's sayings that are packed with live's wisdom: who cares! They are not polite to each other. They question each others capacity to manage everyday life. I loved how women where described in this novel. Father figure is on the background and they hustle together what ever they like without limitations. Everything is all right as long as you don't get caught, could be their motto. They go to places they are not allowed to go and do things they really should't. Grandmother being on the lead they break into neighbor's summer cottage and when they get caught they crawl in to the bushes. It is said that when you are old enough you become child again. There are hints that the grandmother has lost her adult status and become someone that needs to be kept an eye on. But this doesn't stop her a bit because she is cunning enough to play her grandmother's role when needed.
Early Spring turns into Autumn in the island and it is all so very poetical and beautiful. It is like summer is. First lush green, then August heat and small steps toward storms and days spent indoors. Between these pages summer in all it's glory is ready to be experienced again even in the middle of the winter.