Monday, January 26, 2009
Review: Out Stealing Horses
Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson
Reasons for reading: Book club; IMPAC Dublin award winner for the Book Awards Challenge
Summary (from Publishers Weekly): "...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."
First sentence: "Early November."
My thoughts: Quiet and grey are two words that come to mind to describe this book. Not grey in a bad way, but it definitely describes the Norwegian landscape. Despite being quiet, the novel does draw the reader in. Unfortunately, I found that the elements that drew me in, particularly why Trond had decided to live out the rest of his life in solitude, weren't really addressed. The "big reveal" (although it could be I shouldn't have expected one in a literary novel) - that Trond's father abandoned his family - was no surprise at all. To me it made the novel just peter out. There were also several other things that were mentioned, seemed important, and were never mentioned again or pursued very far. I did enjoy the descriptions of Trond's daily life, particularly his relationship with his dog, Lyra and I'm happy to add a Norwegian book to my reading experience..
Verdict: I had a feeling I was in trouble when one of the subject headings for the book was "social isolation - fiction." It was more interesting than I'd thought, though, but the ending rather spoiled the book for me.
For another, much better, review of this book, here's Raidergirl's.