Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fiction: Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson

Publisher: Picador
Translator: Anne Born
Date: 2003 (trans. 2005)
Format: paperback
Source: World Literature Today Book Club
Read: for the WLT Book Club
Pages: 238
Reading time: four days

From GoodReads: 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.

My review: I have mixed opinions on Out Stealing Horses. On the one hand, I enjoyed the author's writing style and thought the translation was excellent. It felt very cinematic; the entire time, I felt like I was watching an essentially plotless, but thought-provoking, rather philosophically-inclined film. The story was interesting, a bildungsroman with its roots in rural World War Two and post-World War Norway. It reminded me a great deal of A Separate Peace by John Knowles. On the other hand, it also reminded me of A Separate Peace in that there were times when it felt like I was missing a part of the meaning behind all that was going on and being described. The story meandered around, but in general, it never felt like it reached any decisive point. Some details from beyond the time described were inferred, but I wish more information had been given about specific aspects of the novel that I thought were going to be explored but never were. While I enjoyed reading Out Stealing Horses, I was left with a vague sense of incompletion.

On a side note, I really wish this had been assigned for my English class. I was reading this while I was supposed to be writing a paper on Bobbie Ann Mason's "Shiloh," specifically about narrative techniques and related matters, and it would have been far easier to write that paper on Out Stealing Horses than on "Shiloh" because such details just jumped out in the novel.

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