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I Refuse

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  2,801 ratings  ·  386 reviews
The major new novel from the prizewinning author of Out Stealing Horses.
Two men meet by accident on a bridge early one morning. Once they were best friends -- but Tommy and Jim haven't seen each other for 35 years. Back then, Tommy and his sister were abandoned by their mother and later by their abusive father, and Jim, who lived alone with his religious mother, went to
Hardcover, 282 pages
Published April 7th 2015 by Graywolf Press (first published 2012)
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Zeynep Deniz Ertuğ I am reading this novel now and I feel the same. Maybe it is because of the translation. The sentences are unnecessarily long and I sometimes wonder…moreI am reading this novel now and I feel the same. Maybe it is because of the translation. The sentences are unnecessarily long and I sometimes wonder why he is talking about these things. (less)

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Average rating 3.58  · 
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 ·  2,801 ratings  ·  386 reviews

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Feb 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Dolors by: I refuse to, just read Petterson!
Shelves: read-in-2017
Sometimes circumstances can sever bonds that once seemed unbreakable and bring them back together in capricious serendipity. The idea of friends who act like family and family that becomes foe and the shifting currents between them is the crux of this magnificent novel that explores friendship, abuse, loss and forgiveness.
Norway in the early seventies; Tommy endures the wrath and beatings of his alcoholic father to protect his younger sisters, taking the place of his mother who has run away to

It was my third encounter with Petterson and I feel I discern some pattern in his works. I would say he’s a master of understatement and reserve, his narration is slow and unhurried, emotions restrained and an ambience prevails over action. Or so I see him. And this novel is no exception.

Though I refuse spans some decades it is mostly a record of one single day, the day in which Jim and Tommy’s paths accidentaly crossed after more than thirty years. Once almost inseparable best friends today
Mar 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
It's tough on any work by an author after you've already read a book by that author that you love, love, love. In this case, it's Per Petterson's Out Stealing Horses that corralled my heart, making it the classic "tough act to follow."

That said, I Refuse, for all its bumpy riding as it jumps back and forth in time and over and back in narrators, is a worthy second. Quite simply, it's about old best friends who have been apart for decades but who randomly meet on a bridge one day. Why? One, not
Diane S ☔
Aug 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 Families and the things that can tear them apart. A mother leaving, a father who abuses and young children who think they can make it on their own. Friendships, even of the most cherished kind, but growing apart and losing contact. People who care and try to step in when needed. I loved the title connection to the story.

All part of this novel, and Petterson, I felt was trying to treat each of his characters with tenderness. Just something in the writing. Narrated by a few different
Oct 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Life can prove an abiding struggle for children who have been chronically traumatised. Rescue, albeit temporary, will come for the boy in the bonds of a friendship. A friendship that will for a time soar above his terrifying and painful past. This is a complex and astounding look at the internal experiences of the two friends. Tommy, the boy who in anger refuses to succumb to his circumstances, and Jim, his best mate who fully accepts and takes on Tommy’s pain. No one will come out of this ...more
Mar 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Deea by: Dolors
How many of our deep sorrows and regrets can be expressed in words as eloquently as to show what we really feel? Can helplessness in front of the life’s mistreatings be expressed in writing in such a manner as to actually convey its real weight? Can yearning seem as intense as it is in reality when you talk about it?

Petterson doesn’t talk directly about any of these feelings in his book, but he expresses them indirectly. He doesn’t identify emotions, he doesn’t reach conclusions, he doesn’t
M. Sarki
May 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a wonderful story of love, friendship, life with all its range of difficulty, of its happiness and despair. A tale full of broken relationships, wounds that never heal, confusion in the way of pursuit, and a coming of age no matter how long it takes to get there. And even if the final result is not what was expected, or even desired at all! Per Petterson has done it again, giving his readers another novel to cheer for, and a fair reason to close unfinished chapters or prepare to hold our ...more
Paul Fulcher
The opening sentence of the novel - short, but bitter not sweet - very much sets the tone for Per Petterson's most recent novel, I Refuse.

The English translation is by the wonderful Don Bartlett, also translator of Karl Ove Knausgaard and Lars Saabye Christensen, and to be congratulated for successfully reflecting such different voices.

This is the 7th of Per Petterson's books to be published in English, all of which I've read and very much enjoyed. As is often notes, Petterson's works all
Apr 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book will not be to everyone’s taste, but it has been haunting me for days. I listened to it on audiobook, and no sooner had I finished, then I started over and listened to the whole thing again, so invested had I become in the characters and situations. I think that’s a first for me. It’s a quiet and contemplative story that plucks at highlights from the lives and thoughts of two seemingly ordinary men. At first I didn’t think I would like it. “What’s with all this emphasis on minutiae?” I ...more
Jun 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
I Refuse is by Per Petterson, the author of Out Stealing Horses, a book I loved. Both books share a moody feeling, a mournfulness, an elegiac quality that dominate the books, that in some ways are the books.

I Refuse tells the stories of Tommy and Jim, two friends close in adolescence who meet after 30 years. Tommy, son of a violently abusive father in y seemed destined for failure but has instead become a successful businessman while Jim, raised by a loving, mother in a more educated and
Feb 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have to admit that an exploration of the psychological scars of two lonely middle aged Norwegian men does not strike me as the most promising starting point for a story, but I was prepared to give this a chance since I remembered enjoying Petterson's better known Out Stealing Horses. Petterson's writing draws you in masterfully, and this was a pleasure to read, for all of the darkness of the childhood memories the two men share. He shares a translator with Karl Ove Knausgaard, and at times ...more
Dec 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways-won
I Refuse tells the story of two boys, who grow up and apart. The point of separation, if not literally, then perhaps emotionally, might be pinpointed to a split second in their boyhood. This moment, this first crack on the ice, that so loudly and decisively cracks open the whole landscape the boys are standing on, is visited once, briefly, and then revisited in a conversation (or the memory of a conversation) later, which leads to the more decisive split between the two best friends. Yet, I ...more
Oct 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
I absolutely loved it.

This is the story of Tommy and Jim, two childhood best friends, who lose touch and meet by chance thirty years later. Slowly we learn what happened in their shared past and what shaped them into the adults they are now.

Everything about this story is so real, the characters' painful histories, their voices, their thought processes, the awkwardness of some of the conversations, the disappointments, their human flaws.

There is love in this story, betrayal, courage, grief,
Roger Brunyate
May 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: mysteries-kinda
Missed Connections

A middle-aged man goes fishing off a bridge between the mainland and an island near Oslo. It is close to dawn. Another man drives past in a new Mercedes, slows, and stops. "It's Jim, isn't it?" he asks. It is indeed. He and Tommy, the immaculately clad man in the expensive car, have not seen each other for over thirty years. But they used to be best friends. Back then, Jim was the high-achiever from the religious household and Tommy, son of a drunken garbage-man, was the
Jan 12, 2016 rated it it was ok
This is what I consider to be a typical Scandinavian novel. I come from a Swedish family so I feel I can speak about Scandinavians, hopefully, without impunity. This story touches all the bases that I think of when I think of the Scandinavian story and mindset. Well written, dark, humorless, without irony,
smart, depressive, suicidal and an austerity that verges on off putting, obsessiveness without pity.

The weight of this novel kept pulling me down, down, down and I am naturally buoyant. I
Jan 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Really great book!
Loved it!

Dec 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Two boys grow up together in a quiet suburb of Oslo. They become firm friends. Their family lives are a bit different though, one lives with his RE teacher single parent mum, the other in a chaotic house ruled with fear and fists by a despotic father. Beatings are a regular treat for the boy and his sisters. His mum leaves, fearing for her life.

Then something snaps, and a baseball bat evens up the odds. The father slinks out of the house, with a leg smashed beyond repair. Then social services
Apr 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: scandinavian-lit
Petterson presents us with the story of Tommy and Jim who grew up together under difficult circumstances in the same small town in Norway. They lose touch with one another and a chance meeting on a cold morning on a bridge brings them back together and causes memories of their troubled childhood to flood their lives. The story alternates between 2006, when they are middle-aged men and the late 1960’s and early 1970’s when they are teenagers. Since their early years are full of tragedy, we get ...more
Apr 01, 2015 rated it did not like it

I tried hard to like I REFUSE--I actually enjoyed the first 1/3 of it--but in the end it's yet another example of a talented author writing a book I just couldn't connect with. These past-present stories aren't my favorite to begin with, and this one was really all over the place. "Disjointed" is the word that comes to mind. I actually read the last 2/3 of this book twice because I came away from it feeling like I must have surely missed something. I’m sorry to say that I can’t
Carlo Ruggiero
Jan 06, 2015 rated it did not like it
Received an Advanced Reader's Copy through GoodReads giveaways

I had read a couple of books by Petterson prior to this one, so I went in with certain expectations. Unfortunately, between the shifting narrative of several characters as well as different time frames of their lives, I had to struggle through the first hundred pages. I Refuse is written in a spare writing style, reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy (esp. lack of punctuation), which has most often proved difficult for me, having a B.A. in
Nov 14, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This moving and atmospheric novel focusses on the friendship between Tommy and Jim. The novel opens with the two friends meeting again after their paths through life have diverged. It’s obvious that Jim is in a fragile mental state, whereas Tommy seems more successful. But both are haunted by early childhood traumas, when each had to face parental absence, and in Tommy’s case, violence. The book moves between past and present, and between the various characters to give an in depth study of ...more
Alyson Hagy
May 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I've been a Petterson fan for a long time now. His books are moody and can be unpredictable, especially in terms of structure. But he writes carefully and deeply about human connection in ways that resonate with me. This novel's mantra of "I refuse" runs counter to the dictum of E.M. Forster's Howard's End (that plaintive "Only connect.") And the book is both riven with love (Petterson writes so well about friendship) and splintered by emotional failure. Petterson doesn't pull punches. Our bonds ...more
Dec 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Easily the best book I read of the year. A breath of fresh air with simple but stunning language and characters. Even when the subject was upsetting or dark, like abuse and loss of friendship, it was still beautiful to read. The story moves back and forth through past and present and is told in chapters by various first person narrators as well as third person. Yet it felt cohesive and unfolds in a lovely way. The story of the two young boy’s friendship is moving and heartbreaking. My only ...more
World Literature Today
"I Refuse begins with the chance meeting of former best friends Jim and Tommy after thirty-five years. The narrative then meanders them back and forth through time, even within precisely dated chapters. . . In his latest novel, Petterson again explores dysfunctional or broken families adrift in the suffocating provincialism of 1960s working-class Norway, whose mantra is 'refusal.' . . . A haunting beauty suffuses this spare, nuanced text." - Michele Levy, North Carolina A&T University

Jun 12, 2015 rated it liked it
A highly acclaimed, generously reviewed and praised new novel by Norwegian author Per Petterson. Very sparely written, and for me on the bleak side; at the same time a very worthwhile read. Explores childhood trauma, the power of friendship, generosity of spirit, flawed personalities, etc.
Yes, it was a memorable read, but did little to uplift one's spirit.
Apr 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015
This will be one of those books that I read again and again. It is perfect. When I went to his reading I learned that he writes his books only once. When he finishes a chapter, it is done. When he finishes the book, it is done. No edits. He finds out what the story is as he writes it. Knowing this, reading this, I'm in awe!
 Sophia B
Oct 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: europe, favorites, norway
4.5. I love the rhythmic prose, poetic and plain, like life if you like. Open and raw without closure. Full of suspense. I am on the verge of crying - this book takes you on a journey through life - from childhood to middle-age - and through all the emotions that follows our existence. Petterson did it again, he creates magic.
May 24, 2015 rated it did not like it
I hate this book but pushed through because of the reviews. None of the stories come to a conclusion, the writing style makes the characters appear uneducated and simple. I'm going to read A Little Life again to fill my head back up with rich characters and exquisite prose.
Anja Regine
Absolutely mesmerizing novel about the decisions people make and how it affects their lives. I don't quite know what to say: It is extremely impressive.
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Petterson knew from the age of 18 that he wanted to be a writer, but didn't embark on this career for many years - his debut book, the short story collection Aske i munnen, sand i skoa, (Ashes in the Mouth, Sand in the Shoes) was published 17 years later, when Petterson was 35. Previously he had worked for years in a factory as an unskilled labourer, as his parents had done before him, and had ...more
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“You don’t remember what you never fail to do, that is common knowledge,” 1 likes
“I can understand that,’ Jim said. And Tommy” 0 likes
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