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Summary and book reviews of Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson

Out Stealing Horses

A Novel

by Per Petterson

Out Stealing Horses
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2007, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2008, 256 pages

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Book Summary

We were going out stealing horses. That was what he said, standing at the door to the cabin where I was spending the summer with my father. I was fifteen. It was 1948 and one of the first days of July.

Trond’s friend Jon often appeared at his doorstep with an adventure in mind for the two of them. But this morning was different. What began as a joy ride on “borrowed” horses ends with Jon falling into a strange trance of grief. Trond soon learns what befell Jon earlier that day—an incident that marks the beginning of a series of vital losses for both boys.

Set in the easternmost region of Norway, Out Stealing Horses begins with an ending. Sixty-seven-year-old Trond has settled into a rustic cabin in an isolated area to live the rest of his life with a quiet deliberation. A meeting with his only neighbor, however, forces him to reflect on that fateful summer.

I

Early November. It’s nine o’clock. The titmice are banging against the window. Sometimes they fly dizzily off after the impact, other times they fall and lie struggling in the new snow until they can take off again. I don’t know what they want that I have. I look out the window at the forest. There is a reddish light over the trees by the lake. It is starting to blow. I can see the shape of the wind on the water.

I live here now, in a small house in the far east of Norway. A river flows into the lake. It is not much of a river, and it gets shallow in the summer, but in the spring and autumn it runs briskly, and there are trout in it. I have caught some myself. The mouth of the river is only a hundred metres from here. I can just see it from my kitchen window once the birch leaves have fallen. As now in November. There is a cottage down by the river that I can see when its lights are on if I go out onto my doorstep.  A man lives there. He is older ...

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...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

Many authors ladle out plot in great splashy dollops, Per Peterson measures his with quiet coffee spoons. What at first looks to be a classic coming-of-age story set in Norway, slowly reveals itself to be something more. What that something is is not entirely spelled out, which makes Out Stealing Horses a literary treat for readers who prefer not to be spoon-fed every detail, and instead enjoy filling in some of the gaps for themselves.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
Entertainment Weekly

Per Petterson fluently jumbles his chronology, sustaining mysteries within several subplots and vivifying evergreen ideas about determinism and the bonds of family. But the real trick is in the way everything finally, neatly converges into an emotional jolt.

New York Sun

Mr. Patterson has something like her talent for scene setting and chronological collage, and all of the writers above have mastered a kind of tempered, minor-key retrospection. Out Stealing Horses is one of my favorite two or three new novels to appear this year.

Booklist

The novel's incidents and lush but precise descriptions...are on a par with those of Cather, Steinbeck, Berry, and Hemingway, and its emotional force and flavor are equivalent to what those authors can deliver, too.

Kirkus Reviews

Haunting, minimalist prose and expert pacing give this quiet story from Norway native Petterson (In the Wake, 2006, etc.) an undeniably authoritative presence.

Publishers Weekly

Petterson coaxes out of Trond's reticent, deliberate narration a story as vast as the Norwegian tundra.

The Guardian (UK) - Ian Thomson

This book is a minor masterpiece of death and delusion in a Nordic land.

Sunday Telegraph (UK)

The plotting is so subtle that one barely notices questions being raised and then, cleverly, answered. By the end, when all the pieces fall into place, we can see how elegantly Petterson has constructed matters, letting us live in a mystery we don't know needs solving until the solution is presented.

The New York Times - Thomas McGuane

This short yet spacious and powerful book...a gripping account of such originality as to expand the reader’s own experience of life.

The Independent - Paul Binding

Anne Born's sensitive translation does justice to an impressive novel of rare and exemplary moral courage, and commendably makes convincing the confrontations of different individuals, different milieux.

Reader Reviews
Teresa

Poignant and private
A private look into a private life. A glimpse into real life events in the life of a man that shapes him forever. Softly spoken, non-assuming and blames no one. I couldn't put the book down yet the ending was not one I would have chosen nor ...   Read More

Penny

Life follows everyone...
Petterson weaves a tale of the past and the present. Of love, pain, frailty and family - of things that made the man Trond became and the memories of the past he wants to reconcile with in his soul. The translation is beautiful as is the story itself...   Read More

John Byrne

Out Stealing Horses
How a boy grows up. The story switches between the different critical times of the man's life - and involves the people who were instrumental in it. I could not put the book down. The more involved his life became - the more intrigued I became...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

A Short History of Norway

Norway is one of the three kingdoms in the geographical region known as Scandinavia (map); the others being Denmark and Sweden. Finland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands are sometimes described as Scandinavian because of their close geographical and historic connections with Scandinavia, although technically speaking these countries belong to the wider definition of "Nordic countries", of which Denmark, Sweden and Norway are also a part.

Up until the 9th century AD, Norway consisted of various small kingdoms, which were ...

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