Out Stealing Horses

Out Stealing Horses

In the meantime, I am spending my days getting this place in order.  There is quite a lot that needs doing.  I did not pay much for it.  In fact, I had been prepared to shell out a lot more to lay my hands on the house and the grounds, but there was not much competition.  I do understand why now, but it doesn’t matter.  I am pleased anyway.  I try to do most of the work myself, even though I could have paid a carpenter, I am far from skint, but then it would have gone too fast.  I want to use the time it takes.  Time is important to me now, I tell myself.  Not that it should pass quickly or slowly, but be only time, be something I live inside and fill with physical things and activities that I can divide it up by, so that it grows distinct to me and does not vanish when I am not looking.

Trond is a 67 year old Norwegian man who has recently lost his wife and his sister, and has decided to live in a remote cabin, so that he can get his head around the events of his life, of his father’s life, to try to understand why, following World War II, his father leaves and never comes back.

Immediately following the war, Trond and his father go out into the country for a summer, to do some logging and make some quick money that way. Early on in the book, a tragedy occurs that we think will shape the book, will shape Trond and inform the narrative. But while it is certainly an important event in Trond’s life, it is not central to the story. Rather, the story is about his father’s involvement in the Norwegian resistance, an involvement that his family knew nothing about. Time shifts from the mid 1940s to the late 1990s, and we learn about the summer that Trond and his father spend, and the effect that it has made on the man that he becomes.

The book is sparse but rich. There were no words wasted, but nothing left out. This is my first book by a Norwegian author, I believe, and I wonder how much of the feel of the book is that Scandinavian flavor to life, and how much is simply the voice of the author, Per Petterson. I thought this book wonderful, and I’m so glad that I read it. I found it on the ‘recommended’ table at Green Apple Books, as it was highly recommended by the staff. I felt somewhat savvy and cool buying it, as though people in the suburbs do not have access to such worldly literature. Imagine my horror when I found it on the table of our closest Borders Books.

Oh well. Out Stealing Horses was declared one of the 10 best books of the year by the New York Times Book Review, so I guess it couldn’t be considered a secret, could it. On closer thought, I’m glad it made it out to Borders. I’m glad that more people will have the opportunity to find this wonderful book, to perhaps meander through its story and fall in love with the language and pacing, and be surprised by the exquisite combination of a feeling of not much going on, juxtaposed with some very real and dramatic events.

Highly recommended. I read Out Stealing Horses for the TBR challenge.

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