The summer book | Tove Jansson

The Moomins passed me by as a child somehow. But I’ve just discovered that not only did Tove Jansson write adult fiction, she was also a cool arty boho lesbian. Well I never!

This is her most loved work apparently, and I can see why; it’s sublime. Gorgeous little tales of a young girl, Sophia, and her grandmother, nameless, in a summer house on a tiny island off the coast of Finland, in which nothing much happens, but their days and various odd little doings are observed beautifully. The girl is bratty and lovable by turns, as small girls are, and the old woman is crabby and lovable likewise. Their preoccupations and world view are far more interesting, and their logic more convincing than the various alien adults that hover pointlessly on the margins of their world.

It’s not sentimental or cutesy, and it’s not idyllic (the weather at midsummer is miserable, of course, and idiot men wreak needless destruction on the environment) but neither is it gritty realism or polemic, just down to earth in a totally magical way. (And hurrah for books about old women and Scandinavian island settings.)