1. The Summer Book – Tove Jansson
I don’t think I’ll be causing too much of a literary storm if I suggest that Chaucer and Tove Jansson are odd bedfellows. But, nevertheless, they share the dubious acclaim of being the first authors to be heralded. And Tove is kicking off something I hope to continue intermitently for quite a while: 50 Books You Must Read But May Not Have Heard About.
Hopefully I’ll be able to bring a few to people’s attention, which they wouldn’t discover on the 3 for 2 tables, and of course I welcome recommendations – which will be ingested, and perhaps appear in this countdown (which is, I hasten to add, in no particular order) in the future. I played around with HTML for a while yesterday, but failed in adding a third column – so a list will be kept of the 50 Reads, down there somewhere on the far left.
I’m easing you in with The Summer Book, which I think has already done the rounds of blogs – certainly spotted it on Cornflower. Translated from the Swedish, and by the author of the Moomin Books, this falls between being a collection of short stories, and a fragmented-but-continuous narrative of the relationship between Sophia and her grandmother. More than anything else, it is a mesmerically beautiful evocation of Summer. Maybe it’s because it was originally written in another language, but there is an atmosphere of ethereality and airiness throughout this work. Finding it difficult to put my finger on why this book is so evocative, but I’m going to give up and just say: it is! Rarely have I left a novel, especially one not especially comedic, loving the characters so much, and appreciating the style of an author more.
Here’s the first line, to entice you:
‘It was an early, very warm morning in July, and it had rained during the night. The bare granite steamed, the moss and crevices were drenched with moisture, and all the colours everywhere had deepened. Below the veranda, all the vegetation in the morning shade was like a rainforest of lush, evil leaves and flowers, which she had to be careful not to break as she searched. She held one hand in front of her mouth and was constantly afraid of losing her balance.
“What are you doing?” asked little Sophia’
Do read on. And it’s a beautiful book to look at, which can’t be a bad thing. That’s right, folks, two days in and I’m already judging a book by its cover.
Anyone read it? Or The Winter Book, the sequel currently sitting on my shelf?