Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson

“All my life I have longed to be alone in a place like this. Even when everything was going well, as it often did. I can say that much. That it often did. I have been lucky. But even then, for instance in the middle of an embrace and someone whispering words in my ear I wanted to hear, I could suddenly get a longing to be in a place where there was only silence.”  Petterson is a wonderful writer.   His writing is elegant and compelling as you get to know Trond, and want to know why he so enjoys the solitude of his older years and what has happened in his life up to this point. He will let you know bit by bit as he goes about his quiet daily life that is maybe a little lonely too. Trond walks his dog Lyra, out to the lake in the early morning hours to sit peacefully, watching the swans in the cold stillness. He tells his story through reminiscing while relating the practicalities and logistics of living in rural Norway with winter coming on, only one neighbor within trudging distance and a temperamental station wagon.

The writing is succinct and atmospheric. “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.” To begin his story, Trond recounts an amusing adventure with his friend when they were both young teens and he was spending the summer with his father in the same house that he lives in now. It was the last adventure they were to have before Trond learns the truth of what has happened to his friend’s family that day. It is the end of childhood for both and the beginning of a new era for Trond’s own family. Now, he meets a new neighbor who brings back all those memories.

It was fun to go with the boys when they were “out stealing horses” and to learn about logging trees and haymaking in the 1940’s. I absolutely love his moving and subtly humorous writing and waiting for the story to unfold. This novel won him some recognition and several literary prizes including the International Dublin Award in 2007.

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