Nov 25, 2008

Book Review: Out Stealing Horses


All this that Franz talked to me about was news to me then, but I had no reason to doubt anything he said. Why he should tell me about those times, when my father had never done so, was a question I sat pondering as he talked on, but I did not know whether I could ask him that and have an answer I could live with, for he must certainly have thought I knew all about it already and was merely amused to hear another version. -page 130

OUT STEALING HORSES by Per Petterson is a story about fathers and sons, families and secrets. The story is told by Trond Sander in late 1999 when he is sixty-seven years old. It's a time when he has chosen solitude over the bustle of city life after the deaths of both his wife and sister. Trond decides that he wants to live out the twilight years of his life alone in the remote north forests of Norway. However, the unexpected happens when one night he meets a man who lives not far from his own riverside cabin. There is something familiar about this man that brings back memories of Trond's teenage years, specifically the summer of 1948 when everything as he knew it changed.

Trond tells the story of that summer when he and his father left their family home in Oslo to help fell trees high in the forests of Norway and the simple life they led there. But when Trond returned to Oslo in the fall, he would not be the same boy as before, and neither would his father be the same man, for he learned things about his father's life that he had no knowledge of until that point.

This is a story told with simplicity and with the beauty of the place and time they lived. At sixty-seven, Trond re-lives that summer in flashbacks as he settles into his new life. The story is not hard to follow and flows smoothly between time. It's all very picturesque in your mind and you can almost hear the river rushing and feel the snow falling, as winter time approaches in 1999.

I had heard a lot about this book and was looking forward to reading it. The premise of the story seemed interesting, but I have to be honest and say that I had a hard time getting through this book. I've read other reviews that were glowing, but I just didn't love it. I don't know if it was something in the translation from Norwegian to English that lost me somewhere or not. For me, this was a very slow read. I found myself back-tracking and re-reading whole pages to make sure I was getting what the author wanted me to feel. Also, I couldn't get used to the extremely long sentences that seemed to go on and on. Another thing is that the last fifty or so pages were the most interesting for me. Per Petterson has a simplistic way of writing and it was impressive, however I just never connected with it the way others did. Like I said, I didn't not like it, it just wasn't one of my favorites.

Matt at A Guy's Moleskine Notebook loved this book very much and wrote a great review. I encourage you to click here and read his review to get a different perspective of this very interesting book.
Author: Per Petterson
Publisher: Graywolf Press
Date Published: April 2007
Pages: 250
Rating: 3 out of 5 (I liked it but didn't love it)

2 comments:

Strumpet said...

I'm glad you finally got through it :) I always find it interesting to hear what other people have thought of the books that I love.

Like I've stated in other places, I do think that the language probably has a lot to do with it. The novel does have a very Norwegian feel in the Norwegian version, and I really hope that has not gotten lost in the translation.

Beth F said...

Thanks for the review. This one is on my wish list. If I ever get to it, I'll be sure to post a review.