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Out Stealing Horses Hardcover – April 17, 2007

4.0 out of 5 stars 425 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Award-winning Norwegian novelist Petterson renders the meditations of Trond Sander, a man nearing 70, dwelling in self-imposed exile at the eastern edge of Norway in a primitive cabin. Trond's peaceful existence is interrupted by a meeting with his only neighbor, who seems familiar. The meeting pries loose a memory from a summer day in 1948 when Trond's friend Jon suggests they go out and steal horses. That distant summer is transformative for Trond as he reflects on the fragility of life while discovering secrets about his father's wartime activities. The past also looms in the present: Trond realizes that his neighbor, Lars, is Jon's younger brother, who "pulls aside the fifty years with a lightness that seems almost indecent." Trond becomes immersed in his memory, recalling that summer that shaped the course of his life while, in the present, Trond and Lars prepare for the winter, allowing Petterson to dabble in parallels both bold and subtle. Petterson coaxes out of Trond's reticent, deliberate narration a story as vast as the Norwegian tundra. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

In this quiet but compelling novel, Trond Sander, a widower nearing seventy, moves to a bare house in remote eastern Norway, seeking the life of quiet contemplation that he has always longed for. A chance encounter with a neighbor—the brother, as it happens, of his childhood friend Jon—causes him to ruminate on the summer of 1948, the last he spent with his adored father, who abandoned the family soon afterward. Trond’s recollections center on a single afternoon, when he and Jon set out to take some horses from a nearby farm; what began as an exhilarating adventure ended abruptly and traumatically in an act of unexpected cruelty. Petterson’s spare and deliberate prose has astonishing force, and the narrative gains further power from the artful interplay of Trond’s childhood and adult perspectives. Loss is conveyed with all the intensity of a boy’s perception, but acquires new resonance in the brooding consciousness of the older man.
Copyright © 2007 Click here to subscribe to The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 250 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press; 1st edition (April 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555974708
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555974701
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (425 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #520,650 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
There are bound to be people annoyed and disappointed by 'Out Stealing Horses', as it is not the traditional narrative they may be used to. Instead of building toward a climactic finish, or revealing a fateful detail that ties together several unrelated events, 'Out Stealing Horses' is a dreamy recitation of memories and the present day, as experienced by an aging widower in rural Norway. The 'payoff', if it can be called that, is not a gratification of the reader's curiousity, but an impressionistic portrait of the sum total of a life.

Alternating between the summer of 1948 and the present, Per Petterson writes of Trond Sanders, who is essentially trying to disappear from the world after three years of mourning for his wife. He has moved to the country, and obsesses over tiny details of his new existence. At the same time, he examines the events from 60 years earier, when he spent a season with his father, a former member of the underground during the Nazi occupation.

It's surprising how big this story is, considering the fragmentary approach Petterson uses. Big in the sense that every page seems loaded with meaning, as if even Trond's stumbling around his run-down cabin hides a secret parallel with an earlier part of his life, or else foreshadows things to come. This sort of storytelling almost promises a compelling denouement, though if that is what the reader is lookng for, he may feel cheated. Instead, Petterson hews closer to reality, shunning the contrived shortcuts fiction is capable of and portrays a complex man who has no more answers to his life's meaning than any of the rest of us.

I found Petterson's style very rustic and refreshing - like a drink of water from a clear stream, or a walk through an untended, leafy wood.
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Format: Hardcover
"Out Stealing Horses," by Per Petterson, is a magnificent gem of a novel. It's a contemplative book that slowly builds momentum for the compelling mystery of human suffering at its core. The story is constructed around a bare sliver of a plot, but there is enormous emotional impact in the telling. The prose is deceptively simple, but so vivid with nuanced detail that the reader immediately becomes caught up and lost in the telling.

The book takes place in 1999 with frequent flashbacks to 1948. The story concerns Trond Sander, a 67-year-old man coming to terms with his aging body and still grieving three years after the deaths of his wife and sister. Telling no one, not even his two grown daughters, Trond takes his pension and moves to an isolated lakeside cabin in the wilds of northern Norway. There he plans to live out the rest of his life in quiet solitude. He spends his days repairing his ideally situated but ramshackle cabin, taking walks with his beloved dog, absorbing the beauty of nature that fill his senses with pleasure at every turn, and dealing with the mundane necessities of everyday life. He has an acute desire to be alone, and is, in every way, perfectly content with this isolation.

Circumstances bring Trond together with one of his neighbors, Lars Haug, another solitary man. It doesn't take both men very long to realize that they share a mysterious common heritage of heartache some fifty years earlier when Trond was 15 and Lars was a 10-year-old neighbor boy, the little brother of his close friend Jon. Long dormant memories are awakened, old wounds opened; yet both men avoid discussing their common history of emotional pain.

It is this mystery of what really happened between their two families in the summer of 1948 that holds the book together.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is the deserved winner of various prestigious literary awards, and has received considerable critical acclaim as an important work of literature. Translated from Norwegian, the prose is simple although a bit sparse, but both the piecemeal unfolding of the story and the abrupt chronological changes complicate Petterson's novel. The narrative begins in November of 1999, and is told in first person by 67 year old Trond, who has just isolated himself in a remote forest village in Norway where he plans to live out the rest of the years alloted him.

After the first twelve pages, in which he does not divulge a whole lot about himself, Trond begins relating an incident from 1948 when he was fifteen, and so he continues switching back and forth from the last months of 1999 to a period ranging from 1948 to 1942. The major part of the novel takes place during this latter time span. Because of the way that the narrative develops, I did not feel that I knew the whole story until I had read the very last line--"and we do decide for ourselves when it will hurt." This line first appears in the second chapter and runs like a refrain throughout the story. The episodes that Trond recalls in a rather elliptical fashion deal with formative events from his adolescence. During this period, he spent a summer with his father in a remote forest village in Norway, learned about his father's resistance activities during World War II, and suffered the loss of his father.

Outside of his memories from this adolescent past, Trond tells the reader little about his life. The novel as a whole, however, is extremely powerful. Upon finishing the book, I found it completely logical that a man in the last stages of his life would reflect back upon a time when his identity was formed.
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