Out Stealing Horses – Book Review

outstealinghorses 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. Three years earlier the Germans had left, but I can’t remember that we talked about them any longer. At least my father did not. He never said anything about the war. – from Out Stealing Horses, page 15 –

In his sixty-seventh year, Trond Sander purchases a house in the Norwegian countryside and seeks the solitude and silence for which he longs.

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. – from Out Stealing Horses, page 5 –

Trond’s only company is a dog named Lyra and an older man who lives in a cabin near the river  not too far from Trond’s home. There in the desolate and beautiful wilderness and as he gets to know his neighbor, Trond begins to remember the summer of 1948 when he was fifteen years old and on the cusp of becoming a man. It is these memories which drive the novel forward – a slow unraveling of  one fateful summer where everything changed. As Trond reveals the multiple layers of his past, he comes to grips with his present and begins to gain an understanding of the man he has become.

Out Stealing Horses is in part about a boy’s relationship with his father which is both touching and compelling. Trond’s father is a complex man with a mysterious past – a man who worked for the Norwegian underground during the Nazi occupation, and who has formed connections which the young Trond is just beginning to understand.

Of course I had my father, but it was not the same. He was a grown man with a secret life behind the one that I knew about, and maybe even one behind that, and I no longer knew I could trust him. – from Out Stealing Horses, page 174 –

Petterson seamlessly moves between the past and present, gradually revealing each character and putting together the pieces of Trond’s life. This is a  novel rich with emotion, one that explores pain, betrayal, identity, and loss. The language of the novel is evocative, simple and luminous.

I was mesmerized by this book. Seemingly a simple tale, it later reveals itself to be a complex study of grief and loss. This is not a book to be read quickly, but one which should be savored.

Highly recommended.


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  1. After this review, I must have it!

    • sheri on January 6, 2009 at 23:43

    I have been wondering a lot about this one. It’s going on my wish list.

    • Sandra on January 6, 2009 at 23:48

    Great review. I loved this book and reviewed it too (briefly). I really like a writer who can tell a story quietly, but powerfully. I have another of his novels on my tbr list for this year, To Siberia. Thanks for reviewing this, it brought back good memories.

    • Laura on January 7, 2009 at 05:03

    I’m glad you enjoyed this book, Wendy (although I’m not surprised that you did!!) I just read an extended interview with the author — don’t have the link handy but it was in The Guardian.

    • Kathy on January 7, 2009 at 05:27

    Your review makes this book sound so powerful. It’s going on my wish list.

    • Diane on January 7, 2009 at 08:01

    I LOVED this book when I read it in 2008. Great Review!

  2. I definitely want to read this one – thanks for the review!

  3. Now you’ve made me even more curious than I already was. It’s on my reading list for this year, so I’ll have something to look forward to.

    • Teddy on January 7, 2009 at 16:19

    Wonderful review Wendy! This one is on my TBR.

    I have awarded you on my blog:


  4. I really want to read this, and had intended to buy it with my Christmas gift cards, but then I got addicted to this graphic novel series I just discovered and everything else got pushed out of my shopping cart!

    • Jill on January 7, 2009 at 18:05

    I really can’t wait to get to this book now! Great review!

    • Dana on January 7, 2009 at 19:46

    I am so glad you liked it– it was so simple and so very deep all at the same time. I thought it was beautiful. I need to read more by Mr. Petterson

    • Wendy on January 9, 2009 at 17:01

    Amy: It is a beautiful, subtle book – one I think you’d enjoy.

    Sheri: I’ll look forward to hearing your thoughts on it one of these days.

    Sandra: I have been looking at To Siberia as well – you describe Petterson’s writing style well.

    Laura: I saw that interview – it was wonderful!

    Kathy: You won’t regret it!

    Diane: I keep hearing that from other readers! It will probably make my top ten in 2009 – it was that good!

    S. Krishna: You’re welcome!

    Samantha: I’ll look forward to reading your review!

    Teddy: Thank you! You are so sweet 🙂

    Kailana: *laughs* I hear you – I have so many books I want to read…and I keep changing my mind as to which I should read first!

    Jill: You’ll love it – I promise!

    Dana: I agree – simple and deep. I’m looking forward to reading more of his work too.

    • J on January 24, 2009 at 18:00

    I have this book on my bookshelf, and I’m reading it for my TBR challenge…I’m very much looking forward to it. I bought it at an independent bookstore in San Francisco, you know, the ones with notes on the books from staff recommending books? This one came VERY highly recommended.

    • Wendy on January 25, 2009 at 15:01

    J: I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did. It has been getting great reviews pretty much across the board.

    • Anna on January 30, 2009 at 06:46

    Great review! I’ve had my eye on this one for awhile.

    • ann on January 31, 2009 at 06:23

    I gave this book to a politician running for
    senator in my district here in Dakota.
    He lost the race but won our hearts with that
    cowoby hat and love of reading. He know many of
    the places that Petterson writed of in this book.

    • Wendy on February 1, 2009 at 09:43

    Anna: Thanks 🙂

    Ann: What a neat story!

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