Out Stealing Horses is a simple, but very striking, story of a man looking back at events that shaped his life more than fifty years earlier.
Trond is a widower and is, by choice, living a solitary life in rural Norway. By chance he sees his nearest neighbour and, though he has not seen him since, he recognises him as someone whose life was also deeply affected by the events of that summer. And so Trond’s memories of that time come to the surface.
In 1948, not long after the end of World War II and the Nazi occupation of Germany, Trond left his mother and his sister behind in Oslo to spend a summer with his father in a cabin in the woods not far from the Swedish border.
One thoughtless action by Trond’s friend Jon sparks a tragedy that leads to more painful events and discoveries. Trond learns that life is fragile and not always as straightforward as it seems, that the people that you think you know best may have secrets from you and that those closest to you may let you down.
The story moves seamlessly between past and present and, little by little, you come to understand why Trond has withdrawn from the world and why he gives little of his emotions away.
So yes, the story is bleak, but is also quite beautifully told and oh so believable. Time and place are beautifully evoked, the descriptions of nature and the changing seasons are quite magical, and the imagery is stunning.
All of this comes together to make Out Stealing Horses a wonderfully atmospheric book – definitely one to savour.
Translated by Anne Born