Sidenote: The term "camp" has actually been the base of many an argument between my husband and me. I grew up in New England, where a camp- not a summer camp- is basically a summer home. Or winter home. Away from "it all." Nearness to a body of water is generally a given. We have a nice one on Moosehead Lake. My husband says this is a cabin, and camp is where you play games with a bunch of kids, do crafts, and have counselors. Deer/moose camps are something else, entirely.
Plus, the cover's pretty awesome, eh?
Samurai Summer by Åke Edwardson (translated by Per Carlsson) is the story of Kenny's last summer at camp. Kenny's real name is Tommy- he renamed himself after ken (Japanese for sword). He is obsessed with the ways of the Samurai, and is training himself to become one. It is set in Sweden in the early 1960s- families are just starting to get TVs and telephones.
The camp is run by "The Matron" and has visits from her creepy son, Christian. Campers wash in a sludgy brown lake, and eat oatmeal that "tastes like chicken poop." Dessert is similar to fruit cocktail syrup. Campers only get to wash up with hot water and soap once, in the middle of summer, before parents come. Counselors steal candy from the campers. There are 40 kids attending the camp, but there is no laughter.
To escape The Matron and her counselor lackeys, Kenny and his friends escape to the forest, where they are building a castle. As Kenny gets to know Kerstin, a girl at the camp, he toys with going against the rules, and showing her the castle. When Kerstin suddenly disappears, Kenny teams up with his samurai "trainees" and they try to find her. The result is a grim "us vs. them" battle.