Per Petterson, “Out Stealing Horses”

I’m not such a big fan of this kind of book, where a stoical narrator tells you in simple declarative sentences about the terrible things that have happened to him.  (It’s a very male voice.)  My friend Meg, whose taste is excellent, loaned this to me so I stuck it  out.  And besides, if I’m really going to emulate a book group, I have to read random selections, right?  And finish them.  

Our narrator, Trond, starts telling his story as an isolated man of 67 in a tiny community in rural Norway.  He flashes back to a crucial summer in his life — oh, dear, another coming-of-age story.  What’s good: he vividly evokes the experience of a fifteen-year-old boy.  In fact throughout, Petterson is very deliberate about describing the sensory experiences of his character.  But I should have known from the first three sentences: “Early November.  It’s nine o’clock.  The titmice are banging against the window.”  

Even when the plot broadens to encompass Nazis and adultery and the horrific death of a child, that measured objective tone persists.  I guess I want more flash.  I guess I don’t care much about male coming-of-age stories.  And I don’t care at all about titmice.

About carolwallace

I spend most of my time writing and reading. Most recent publications: the reissue of "To Marry an English Lord,"one of the inspirations for "Downton Abbey," and the historical novel "Leaving Van Gogh." I am too cranky to belong to a book group but I love the book-blogging community.
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1 Response to Per Petterson, “Out Stealing Horses”

  1. Meg says:

    well, thank goodness I also recommended The Time Traveler’s Wife — I wouldn’t want to have my name be forever smirched by having stuck you only with this one! I kind of liked the deliberate (OK yeah maybe fossilized) pace of this book. Kept me from my unfortunate habit of staying-up-too-late-because-I-can’t-put-the-book-down reading. And the procrastinator in me appreciated the idea that you can put off experiencing the pain in painful episodes — maybe until you are an old widow(er). Hey — I’m busy now.

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