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Julian Meynell's Books

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The Summer Book

The Summer Book - Esther Freud, Thomas Teal, Tove Jansson I have read most of Jannson's works for children, but this is the first of her novels for adults that I have read. It is my opinion that Jansson was the greatest of all Children's writers and the most under-appreciated writer of any kind. This book reaffirms that opinion.
This book is also illustrated by her in a similar manner to the Moomin books. While not as good as the best of the Moomin books it is clearly a work of genius,

The book gains in intelligibility if you have read Moominpappa at Sea and Moominvalley in November, both of which resemble this book in tone and theme and in their lack of actual events. The book is about a child and her grandmother on an island following the death of the child's mother.

It is written with the stark simplicity, and stunning similes and metaphors of the later Moomin books. The old themes of loss, fear, parental abandonment and isolation while in a group of people are here. The sense of magic and the unknowable in the naturalistic landscape is there strongly as well. The quiet stillness of an unknowable anthropomorphized nature that can not be conquered, but only accepted permeates the book. The book touches on all sorts of things, such as the nature of love (the love is for a cat) or the nature of social convention and so on.

The whole thing has the magical, stillness of the later Moomin books. Not much happens in the book. Big events are things like trespassing on an island and riding out a storm.

The whole thing is startling and beautiful and the genius of Jansson is on full display. Seeing her familiar style and concerns transported into an adult novel makes clear that she is indeed a great writer and the incredibly precise word usage of her prose can be appreciated afresh. This isn't quite as brilliant as the best of the Moomin books, but it is brilliant, none the less. I do not know why I have waited so long to read it.