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Out Stealing Horses – Per Petterson

25 Mar

Jan VariantIn 1948, when he is fifteen, Trond spends a summer in the country with his father. The unexpected events that come to pass alter his life forever.

An early morning adventure out stealing horses leaves Trond confused when is friend Jon suffers a sudden breakdown.  Behind this scene, he will discover, lies a personal tragedy: the first incident in the gradual destruction of the two boys’ families.

As an old man, living in an isolated part of Norway, Trond chances upon a character from that fateful summer who stirs up painful memories and forces him to look back at his past.

There are certain books that I just know I will love even before I read them and so having picked this one up recently, it went to the top of the pile.  I am happy to report that my nose for a good book (and this one does smell overwhelmingly intoxicating as a bonus) is still living up to its self imposed reputation.

There is a sparse melancholy feeling that I seem to associate with Scandinavia that permeates this elegantly crafted story, one that is astutely constructed to slowly tease out the lives, revelations and the relationships of the characters.  The mirroring of the readers perceptions with that of Trond’s who is slowly seeing his world change about him is cleverly done, his feeling of being on the edge of the mysteries of adulthood, knowing and not yet knowing simultaneously, coupled with his brutally honest thoughts are powerful and he becomes an instantly likeable if flawed character..

Trond’s narration can seem curiously detached from the past events as he remembers the fateful summer of 1948, almost like he is the voice over on a nature programme, studying some other life.  His style is arresting, it goes between cold and emotionless in parts whilst at others he expresses insight and feelings of happiness and nostalgia that draws the reader into the lives of all the Characters and their beautiful forest setting.

Although I greedily devoured this book over the course of two sittings, I never felt like I was reading to quickly, the story feels like it applied a break to my covetous eyes.  It takes its time and meanders between past and present and I felt like I had lived a lot of time in their world.  The sparse feeling is actually a very clever subterfuge for a busy book, there is plenty of depth of thought just below the surface with the narrators changing impressions, the transition of states and so on through to the cyclical nature of things and of life, the rhythm that binds us to nature.

We smelled the horse droppings and the wet boggy moss and the sweet, sharp, all-pervading odour of something greater than ourselves and beyond our comprehension…

There are inevitably endings to everything and upon closing this book not 20 minutes ago, I found that I appreciated the things left unsaid almost as much as the story itself.  Those avenues of thought upon characters, of paths we/they may choose are – for me at any rate – sparking many engrossing thoughts, musing on the open ends of a book is indeed a noble pursuit.  Throughout reading I was happy to note that there is no descent into saccharine sentimentality, just a thoroughly good read for those who live literature and life.

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39 Comments

Posted by on 25/03/2015 in Fiction

 

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39 responses to “Out Stealing Horses – Per Petterson

  1. shadowoperator

    25/03/2015 at 12:17

    This sounds like a really good book; I’ll try to get it from my library someday soon. I think what you say about the distance of the voice (or the voiceover) is something that might be interesting to experiment with in fiction. I suppose this is especially believable with this character because he’s older and looking back over a whole life.

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    • Ste J

      25/03/2015 at 12:47

      His experience of life does make him a less emotional and more realistic character, that detachedness is refreshing when so many characters are driven by emotions and Trond stands out for that, I am looking forward to picking up the author’s other works now. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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  2. Elizabeth Melton Parsons

    25/03/2015 at 13:13

    I’ve added this to my wish list on Amazon. It sounds like something I’d love or perhaps it’s just your marvelous review that makes it so intriguing. 🙂

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    • Ste J

      25/03/2015 at 13:19

      Well the book inspires the review, so the book is the winner on that score. I’m glad I can help to lengthen your wish list.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  3. Jill Weatherholt

    25/03/2015 at 13:21

    Terrific review, Ste J. The premise sounds very intriguing, and I’m very drawn to the cover.

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    • Ste J

      25/03/2015 at 13:25

      It does have one of those covers that automatically makes you imagine your own idyllic life stories. This is one of those books that I didn’t actually dwell on before firing up the computer to blog about, that’s the effect that it had on me, which is rare.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  4. Letizia

    25/03/2015 at 13:23

    A great review, SteJ, as I find it’s not an easy book to summarize or explain and you did it so well. I’m intrigued by the cover of your book as it’s different than my copy. I like my copy (it has a horse and trees) but your has the house which mine doesn’t.

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    • Ste J

      25/03/2015 at 13:31

      I wonder if different publishing houses are involved, or perhaps the different covers are meant to appeal to people where we reside. I just checked, your copy is Picador and mine is Random House so that is probably the reason. It seems like covers change too much these days though, at leas we got our copies before the inevitable film tie in cover happens.

      I think the reason why I wrote my review so quickly after reading it was because I feared dwelling on too much before writing in case I just ended up on a two thousand word essay. I am glad my summary met with your approval and also thinks for bringing the book into my reach.

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      • Letizia

        25/03/2015 at 13:51

        I don’t love the idea of different covers despite the fact that the comparison intrigues me. I feel like the author should be involved in the decision and then it should stay that way. After all, it’s part of the book (imagine an album cover changing!).

        I know how much you hate the movie tie-ins on book covers. Your hatred of them makes me giggle.

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        • Ste J

          25/03/2015 at 20:55

          I won’t even let my eyes dwell on a movie cover, I have been known to rant about it in shops, sometimes whilst on my own. I would imagine that only popular authors get a say in what is on the cover of their books. I’ll tell you another thing I hate as well, whilst we’re on the subject books that intentionally have their covers styled on that of a popular book to sucker people into buying them. Both Fifty Shades and The Da Vinci Code were for some reason inspiration for cover artists, on the plus side is does help me avoid stuff I will hate easier. It is a good point about album covers, they just remain classic. I’ve never thought of that before.

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          • Letizia

            26/03/2015 at 00:11

            You make a good point about the copying of popular book covers (and making it all the easier to avoid said books!).

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  5. writersideup

    26/03/2015 at 01:47

    Wow, Ste J, talk about a stellar review! So glad you enjoyed this as much as you did 😀

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    • Ste J

      26/03/2015 at 15:28

      Every so often a review comes into my head pretty much fully formed and this was one of them, it was a really good read and although the subject matter was melancholy, I couldn’t help but have a big smile on my face because it was so compelling.

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  6. leapingtracks

    26/03/2015 at 09:03

    When I started reading your review, I thought – ah, I know PP, I’ve read him before. But on looking at his list of books, I cannot for the life of me think what I have read in the past. Perhaps I did so in another life; perhaps your review is simply so evocative as to inspire such feelings. Whatever the answer, this book is now definitely on my list of next buys, thanks. 🙂

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    • Ste J

      26/03/2015 at 15:34

      If you can’t remember which PP book you read, the good thing is you get to read them all again, yay! I hope my reviews can evoke big interest without giving any spoilers away, I have to say this one has gotten more comments about adding to wishlists than any of my others I think.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  7. Lyn

    26/03/2015 at 09:58

    It sounds intriguing. I think I’ll also add it to my Amazon wish list. At the moment I have 10 books on my Kindle that I’ve yet to read. And another three I want to add, but I’m resisting the temptation until I read at least five of the ten sitting in line 🙂

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    • Ste J

      26/03/2015 at 15:30

      It is tough to resist said temptation, I know how that feels. It is a book that’s worth the wait and I think sometimes just knowing it’s there on the horizon is good enough.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  8. vsvevg

    26/03/2015 at 13:09

    Sounds like my kind a book!

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    • Ste J

      26/03/2015 at 15:35

      Yes, yes and thrice yes. Now you have no excuse not to get it. I shall await my thank you cheque in the post haha!

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  9. Jilanne Hoffmann

    26/03/2015 at 18:16

    “Oh dear,” she says, desperately looking around for more places to store books…Stellar review!

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    • Ste J

      28/03/2015 at 19:42

      There’s always room, I find it brings out the inventiveness in readers when new space is needed.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  10. Sheila

    27/03/2015 at 01:25

    Those unsaid things are tricky to get across, but I love it whenever it’s possible to read so much into a book. I’ll have to devour this one now too – thank you!

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    • Ste J

      28/03/2015 at 19:49

      It’s another case of discovering an book and author that isn’t as well known as deserved. Layered books are great, this one will be staying with me for a long time, in terms of thoughts and the visuals. I love a good nature scene.

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  11. Sherri

    27/03/2015 at 12:47

    What a find and fantastic review this Ste. As soon as I began reading your review, I was already thinking the same as you about that feeling when you just know you’ve found a really good book, one you won’t want to put down. I share that same ‘sparse, melancholy’ feeling about Scandinavia as you and I now am desperate to find out what lies beyond the boy’s comprehension. Atmosphere, flawed characters, setting, troubled plot, all ooze out of your excellent review and I am not surprised you wrote this not 20 minutes after you finished reading. Utterly delicous…and I am greatly drawn to its sparseness without sentimentality. My kind of book this. But sad to put it down I’m sure…

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    • Ste J

      28/03/2015 at 19:55

      It was sad but then I picked up another really good book straight after (of which I shall withhold the title just now because I like to keep a sense of drama going on). I’m glad I can bring you another book that grabs you, I do like that we have the same taste. May I also recommend a children’s book called Bow Island which I reviewed sometime back. by Bo Carpelan which is a wonderful read if you can get hold of it.

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • Sherri

        30/03/2015 at 18:14

        Thanks Ste! I’ll look for Bow Island. And I always enjoy plenty of drama…

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  12. tomrains

    27/03/2015 at 20:43

    I love your blog. I’ll make sure to catch all your future posts! And catch up with some past ones as well…

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    • Ste J

      28/03/2015 at 19:41

      Welcome and thanks for visiting, I’ll be sure to be around your blog again, ah, if only there was more time in the day!

      Liked by 1 person

       
  13. anna amundsen

    30/03/2015 at 14:37

    You should write a post on how you know a certain book is a good book, try to explain your nose’s efficiency.
    This is one of the books I can very much relate to on a personal, introverted level.

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    • Ste J

      30/03/2015 at 19:34

      To write about the intangible, that is a challenge and a half! I also picked up Tove Janssons’s The Summer Book as well for a heady mix of introspection and the human element.

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  14. angela

    01/04/2015 at 04:37

    Sweet serendipity…firstly I was just going to peep around and revisit your blog tomorrow night when more time until I saw you reviewed a fave of mine! I read this years ago and knew I could not rec to our library peeps easily for it reads like a foreign film – so much not said that must be pondered. I am most impressed that you could blog about this after just reading — this book’s ending came to fruition in the middle of the night 2 – 3 days later after I finished– I have to see if I wrote anything about it anywhere, though your sentiments do echo what remember — it is a story filled with lightness and dark, requiring space, room to breath ~ lovely

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    • Ste J

      02/04/2015 at 10:49

      I like that style of writing, it does make one read differently, I try to pick up foreign authors when I hear about them which sadly isn’t that much unless it’s some bestseller which makes me inclined to avoid it anyway. I usually like to let a book settle for at least a day or two before writing about it but this one was just so…good (for want of a better word in my vocabulary of which there are surely a plethora). I would be most interested to read anything you have on the book yourself, as I am with all your writing, of course and I’m glad we tally on so many points, we are the best!

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      • angela

        03/04/2015 at 02:50

        Ironically – all I found on Goodreads was as brief as I wrote here for you – crazy, too, because I must have been avoiding a spoiler for I shall not remember now what the ah-ha moment was… you might need to remind me the ending again – or I shall try to find in the stacks tomorrow and skim!

        We are the best and I am glad to have you as a blogger friend across the pond!

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        • Ste J

          03/04/2015 at 07:36

          The feeling is mutual. I shall refrain from any spoilers here in case it ruins it for any other readers, it is a challenge sometimes to avoid spoilers when writing but I like a challenge.

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  15. leapingtracks

    12/09/2015 at 13:02

    So I have just finished OSH… Really interested that you read it so quickly – it took me ages to get through it. Almost as if I had to keep seeing through the Scandinavian mists that you so aptly evoke in your review. I found it became a labour of love – like Trond’s life; like the felling of trees for a living; like the weight of all the memories throughout the narrative – I could not give up on it even though it would not give itself easily to me. One of most the piercing parts for me was Trond’s dream (p126-130) and especially the sentiments expressed at the end of the para at the top of p128 (‘I had heard those words before…’). Overall, as usual, I completely agree with you about the refreshing lack of sentimentality – how courageous to write a book such as this. An awesome achievement. Thank you for bringing it to our attention. 🙂

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    • Ste J

      12/09/2015 at 22:12

      It’s fascinating how people read books in different ways, I really wanted to read it slowly and take my time and live the book as much as possible but it was just so good I just had to keep reading. That paragraph is so sad, it was just bleak, not overdone just perfectly weighted in emotion. A lot of authors use that to elicit their reactions but the writing here is so raw and stripped down that its starkness is the strikingly effective part of it. I only pass on the good books, its thanks to Letizia that I came across this book, recommendations are great.

      Liked by 1 person

       

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