The last time I read something that awakened my most inner, pure, childish-like batch of emotions was perhaps Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. Similarly, Patrick Süskind’s The Story of Mr Sommer is a novella with sparse illustrations by New Yorker contributor, Sempé, that depicts a simple childhood of a boy with, rather, profound underlying descriptions of… life. It’s more dense than The Giving Tree but it’s just as sentimentally moving and enchanting. The main character, now older and wiser, shares the events of his childhood through his recollections of the mysterious village elder, Mr Sommer.
The book is a journey into uncovering the true intent of an incomprehensible nocturnal idiosyncrasy of Mr Sommer walking to god-knows-where without ever slowing down to make even the slightest eye contact with the villagers. Why at night? And why so anxious? His old age is reflected through his brittle caliber that barely fits into any of his dark, patched up clothes, and his deliberate isolation to the rest of the world. As the boy’s childhood evolves from running around and climbing trees to attending grade school, Mr Sommer’s nightly compulsion also evolves into an enigma that soon becomes abandoned by village speculators- until one night: the boy finally witnesses Mr Sommer’s ritual. This takes place in the last dozen pages so it’s very liberating and, as mentioned, awakening to the feelings.
Short (127 pages w/ pictures), simple, sentimental, and reflective, The Story of Mr Sommer lingered for days after I set the book aside.
dee’s recommendation: 5/5