Alcornell's Reviews > Out Stealing Horses

Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson
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's review
Sep 09, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: keeper-will-reread, nordic
Read in June, 2010

Alone in a remote cabin with the harsh Norway winter fast approaching, Trond Sanders searches for a way to explain a single, piercing childhood tragedy that has echoed hauntingly throughout his life. As the focus of the novel shifts seamlessly between a summer Trond spent working with his father and the silent time he now spends alone in his cold, tiny cabin, the details of his tragedy and its lasting effects are slowly drawn into focus.

He mulls over the events of those months as a fifteen-year-old trying to make sense of the unanswered questions held within, especially with a father he thought he knew better than others but did not know very well. A highly introspective tale told in seemingly disconnected scenes which serve to define him, emotionally or metaphorically. The strongest metaphor rests in the contrast of the elderly man in winter and the youth on the brink of manhood in summer.

Elderly wisdom and the naivete of youth are both expressed in his stoic Scandinavian voice. Breath-taking scenery expands with an almost oppressive serenity that seems to mold and define this quiet, work-heavy nation. The backdrop often frames this tale as the surroundings divulge the emotions of this man of few words.

In the end Trond did not understand his father any better than he did the last time he spoke to him. I found this to be poignant, a live thread in a powerful narrative which brought the past into the present. Trond's reflections and narrative depict his irritability, sadness and resilience. When we leave the story Trond knows who he is; his story continues to live with him, a continued process of making a clearing, giving time to considerations from many angles.

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