I recently read The Summer Book by Tove Jansson, originally published in 1972. This episodic book distills the essence of the relationship between a six-year-old girl and her grandmother as they spend their summer holiday on a tiny Finnish island. Here are seven quotes from the book that particularly stood out to me.
An island can be dreadful for someone from outside. Everything is complete, and everyone has his obstinate, sure and self-sufficient place. Within their shores, everything functions according to rituals that are as hard as rock from repetition, and at the same time they amble through their days as whimsically and casually as if the world ended at the horizon.
You can see for yourself that life is hard enough without being punished for it afterwards. We get comfort when we die, that’s the whole idea.”
That’s strange, Grandmother thought. I can’t describe things any more. I can’t find the words, or maybe it’s just that I’m not trying hard enough. It was such a long time ago. No one here was even born. And unless I tell it because I want to, it’s as if it never happened; it gets closed off and then it’s lost.
“Love and kisses to those too old and too young to come to the party.”
Even potted plants got to be a responsibility, like everything else you took care of that couldn’t make decisions for itself.
There were little animals everywhere. They could turn up between the covers of a book, flattened and dead, for the fact is that creeping animals, tattered animals, and dead animals are with us all our lives, from beginning to end.
Grandmother thought for a moment, and then she said that superstitious was when you didn’t try to explain things that couldn’t be explained.