Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About this Guide
The following author biography and list of questions about Out Stealing
Horses are intended as resources to aid individual readers and book groups
who would like to learn more about the author and this book. We hope that this
guide will provide you a starting place for discussion, and suggest a variety of
perspectives from which you might approach Out Stealing Horses.
About the Book
Out Stealing Horses has been embraced across the world as a classic, a
novel of universal relevance and power. Panoramic and gripping, it tells the
story of Trond Sander, a sixty-seven year-old man who has moved from the city to
a remote, riverside cabin, only to have all the turbulence, grief, and
overwhelming beauty of his youth come back to him one night while he's out on a
walk. From the moment Trond sees a strange figure coming out of the dark behind
his home, the reader is immersed in a decades-deep story of searching and loss,
and in the precise, irresistible prose of a newly crowned master of fiction.
"I needed to concentrate," Trond says at the start of the book (pg. 7),
explaining his decision to move to the country. Do you think he is happy in
his isolation? Is he making a brave choice by withdrawing to the country, as
he has always dreamt of doing; or do you think he's fleeing the
responsibilities of his life?
Soon after Odd is killed, Trond says "I felt it somewhere inside me; a
small remnant, a bright yellow speck that perhaps would never leave me."
What is it he feels? How does that day stealing horses with Jon, and
learning what has happened to Odd, change Trond? Do you see the effects of
that loss in him as an older man?
Petterson has been widely praised for his descriptions of nature, and of
small quiet moments in everyday life. How does his writing make these
ordinary moments compelling? Which images of landscapes or domestic scenes
remained most vivid in your memory after finishing the book?
After his dream at the start of Chapter 5, which leaves him weeping,
Trond says, "But then it is not death I fear." Do you believe him? If so,
what is he afraid of?
How do you think Trond's life would have changed if he had hit the man
in Karlstad (pp. 231-233)? Why does he attach so much significance to
Look at the scene in which Trond's car goes off the road and he sees the
lynx in the woods (pg. 65). At the end of the scene, Trond says "I can't
recall when I last felt so alive as when I got the car onto the road again
and drove on." Why does a near accident, and the sight of the lynx, thrill
Were you surprised by Ellen's reaction to her father when she finds him
at the end of the book? Would you be angrier in her position, or more
forgiving? Has Trond been unfair to her?
How has Trond become like his father, and how has he managed to take a
different path? What parallels do you see between the lives they lead in the
book? How is Trond's behavior as an adult influenced by the short time he
spent with his father as a young man?
Look at the book's final section, after Trond has discovered that his
father isn't coming back. How does his behavior change? Were you surprised
by his reaction to the news?
How do you think Trond's life will change after the end of the novel?
Will he see more of his daughter? Will he and Lars become friends, or will
he return to the isolation he had sought out when he moved to the country?
Look at Ellen's monologue about the opening lines of David Copperfield
(pg. 197). How do you understand the phenomenon she's describing, of not
being "the leading characters of our own lives"? Has this happened to anyone
you know? Do you think it has happened to Trond? Is it a good or a bad
Why do you think Trond's father doesn't tell him the story of the
Resistance? Why does he leave it to Franz? How do you think Trond's
perception of his father would have changed if his father had told the story
For more information on Picador Reading Group Guides:
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Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Picador.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.
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