Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson


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The story moves seamlessly between past and present and, little by little, you come to understand why Trond has withdrawn from the world and why he gives little of his emotions away.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

13 responses

  1. I just love reading your reviews. This review sounds as beautiful as the book.

    I just noticed the change in your sidebar and I will now start calling you Jane. I have a very dear friend who happens to be my sister-in-law and her name is Jane. Therefore I have always been fond of the name.

  2. I’m afraid I seem to be one of the only people on the planet who didn’t enjoy this book. I’ll creep away quietly, and let all the people who love this book flock here!

    PS. I didn’t realise you were called Jane either, I’ll have to remember that.

  3. My real name was never meant to be a mystery, it’s just that I’m FleurFisher almost everywhere on the internet so I kept that name here i’ve been meaning to update my sidebar for ages but I’ve only just got the job done.

    Jackie – While I very much enjoyed the book I can quite understand that not everybody would. Possibly one of the reasons I liked it was because I tend to retreat in the face of difficulties too and so I identified more. I expect you are made of stronger stuff!

  4. Jane – I’m not sure I’m made of stronger stuff, but it is an interesting reason why I might not have liked it!

  5. Reading your review made me remember why I loved this book so much…it is definitely atmospheric and beautifully written. Terrific review!

  6. I thought this was a beautifully evocative book, so simply told but with depth nonetheless. I have another book by him I need to read soon, that was recently translated into english.

  7. Pingback: Saturday Review of Books: March 7, 2009 at Semicolon

  8. Thanks for this lovely review – I enjoyed this book a lot and could appreciate his need for simplicity and solitude as well. I agree it is a book to be savoured..

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