Out Stealing Horses: A Novel

By Per Petterson
Publisher:Picador, (4/29/2008)

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Out Stealing Horses has been embraced across the world as a classic, a novel of universal relevance and power. Panoramic and gripping, it tells the story of Trond Sander, a sixty-seven-year-old man who has moved from the city to a remote, riverside cabin, only to have all the turbulence, grief, and overwhelming beauty of his youth come back to him one night while he's out on a walk. From the moment Trond sees a strange figure coming out of the dark behind his home, the reader is immersed in a decades-deep story of searching and loss, and in the precise, irresistible prose of a newly crowned master of fiction.

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"Out Stealing Horses: A Novel"
By Per Petterson

Average Rating:

This book has not been rated

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 General reading guide discussion questions to be used with ANY book your book club or reading group might be discussing.

1. “I needed to concentrate,” Trond says at the start of the book (pg. 7), explaining his decision to

move to the country. Do you think he is happy in his isolation? Is he making a brave choice by

withdrawing to the country, as he has always dreamt of doing; or do you think he’s fleeing the

responsibilities of his life?

2. Soon after Odd is killed, Trond says “I felt it somewhere inside me; a small remnant, a bright

yellow speck that perhaps would never leave me.” What is it he feels? How does that day

stealing horses with Jon, and learning what has happened to Odd, change Trond? Do you see the

effects of that loss in him as an older man?

3. Petterson has been widely praised for his descriptions of nature, and of small quiet moments in

everyday life. How does his writing make these ordinary moments compelling? Which images of

landscapes or domestic scenes remained most vivid in your memory after finishing the book?

4. After his dream at the start of Chapter 5, which leaves him weeping, Trond says, “But then it

is not death I fear.” Do you believe him? If so, what is he afraid of?

5. How do you think Trond’s life would have changed if he had hit the man in Karlstad (pp. 231-

233)? Why does he attach so much significance to that decision?

6. Look at the scene in which Trond’s car goes off the road and he sees the lynx in the woods

(pg. 65). At the end of the scene, Trond says “I can’t recall when I last felt so alive as when I got

the car onto the road again and drove on.” Why does a near accident, and the sight of the lynx,

thrill him?

7. Were you surprised by Ellen’s reaction to her father when she finds him at the end of the

book? Would you be angrier in her position, or more forgiving? Has Trond been unfair to her?

8. How has Trond become like his father, and how has he managed to take a different path?

What parallels do you see between the lives they lead in the book? How is Trond’s behavior as

an adult influenced by the short time he spent with his father as a young man?

9. Look at the book’s final section, after Trond has discovered that his father isn’t coming back.

How does his behavior change? Were you surprised by his reaction to the news?

10. How do you think Trond’s life will change after the end of the novel? Will he see more of his

daughter? Will he and Lars become friends, or will he return to the isolation he had sought out

when he moved to the country?

11. Look at Ellen’s monologue about the opening lines of David Copperfield (pg. 197). How do

you understand the phenomenon she’s describing, of not being “the leading characters of our

own lives”? Has this happened to anyone you know? Do you think it has happened to Trond? Is

it a good or a bad thing?

12. Why do you think Trond’s father doesn’t tell him the story of the Resistance? Why does he

leave it to Franz? How do you think Trond’s perception of his father would have changed if his

father had told the story himself?

Clubie Submitted Discussion Questions
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly
Award-winning Norwegian novelist Petterson renders the meditations of Trond Sander, a man nearing 70, dwelling in self-imposed exile at the eastern edge of Norway in a primitive cabin. Trond's peaceful existence is interrupted by a meeting with his only neighbor, who seems familiar. The meeting pries loose a memory from a summer day in 1948 when Trond's friend Jon suggests they go out and steal horses. That distant summer is transformative for Trond as he reflects on the fragility of life while discovering secrets about his father's wartime activities. The past also looms in the present: Trond realizes that his neighbor, Lars, is Jon's younger brother, who "pulls aside the fifty years with a lightness that seems almost indecent." Trond becomes immersed in his memory, recalling that summer that shaped the course of his life while, in the present, Trond and Lars prepare for the winter, allowing Petterson to dabble in parallels both bold and subtle. Petterson coaxes out of Trond's reticent, deliberate narration a story as vast as the Norwegian tundra. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From The New Yorker
In this quiet but compelling novel, Trond Sander, a widower nearing seventy, moves to a bare house in remote eastern Norway, seeking the life of quiet contemplation that he has always longed for. A chance encounter with a neighbor—the brother, as it happens, of his childhood friend Jon—causes him to ruminate on the summer of 1948, the last he spent with his adored father, who abandoned the family soon afterward. Trond’s recollections center on a single afternoon, when he and Jon set out to take some horses from a nearby farm; what began as an exhilarating adventure ended abruptly and traumatically in an act of unexpected cruelty. Petterson’s spare and deliberate prose has astonishing force, and the narrative gains further power from the artful interplay of Trond’s childhood and adult perspectives. Loss is conveyed with all the intensity of a boy’s perception, but acquires new resonance in the brooding consciousness of the older man.
Copyright © 2007 Click here to subscribe to The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine
Per Petterson's tale of love, forgiveness, and the nature of evil has already swept up four prestigious literary awards: two notable prizes in Norway, the Independent (UK) Foreign Fiction Prize, and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. This perceptive, poignant novel blends the exhilaration of youth and the impassive recollections of old age with subtle plotting and biting observations on the question of fate versus free will. Critics differed over Petterson's prose: some found it lackluster, while others thought its simplicity and frankness cleverly captured Trond's voice. The Minneapolis Star Tribune also took issue with Petterson's bland female characters. However, Petterson's unforgettable portrait of a man trying to come to terms with his past will linger long after the last page.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist
*Starred Review* Three years after his wife's accidental death, Trond Sander, 67, settles into an isolated cabin near Norway's southeastern border with Sweden. It's where he last saw his father at the end of summer 1948. Then 15 and full grown, Trond helped harvest the timber—too early, perhaps, but necessarily, it came to seem later. He also suddenly lost his local best friend, Jon, when, after an early morning spent "stealing horses"—that is, taking an equine joyride—Jon inadvertently allowed a gun accident that killed one of his 10-year-old twin brothers and guiltily ran away to sea. When that summer was over, Trond went back to Oslo, but his father stayed with Jon's mother, his lover since they met in the Resistance during World War II. Segueing with aplomb between his present and past, Trond's own narration is literarily distinguished, arguably to a fault; would a businessman, even one who loves Dickens, write this well? The novel's incidents and lush but precise descriptions of forest and river, rain and snow, sunlight and night skies are on a par with those of Cather, Steinbeck, Berry, and Hemingway, and its emotional force and flavor are equivalent to what those authors can deliver, too. Olson, Ray --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

"This stunning novel will tell you more about the Norwegian countryside and psyche than the most enthusiastically well-informed guidebook."-"Sunday Telegraph"
"[Petterson] captures the essence of a man's vast existence with a clean-lined freshness that hits you like a burst of winter air - surprising and breathtaking."-"Daily Express"
." . . a true gem, compact yet radiant."-"Independent on Sunday"
." . . a minor masterpiece of death and delusion."-"The Guardian" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"A gripping account of such originality as to expand the reader's own experience of life."--Thomas McGuane, The New York Times Book Review

"Read Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson. From the first terse sentences of this mesmerizing Norwegian novel about youth, memory, and, yes, horse stealing, you know you're in the hands of a master storyteller."--Newsweek

"That's the effect of Per Petterson's award-winning novel: It hits you in the heart at close range."--Alan Cheuse, NPR's All Things Considered

"A masterpiece of tough romance . . . One of my favorite two or three new novels to appear this year."--The New York Sun

"Petterson's spare and deliberate prose has astonishing force. . . . Loss is conveyed with all the intensity of a boy's perception but acquires new resonance in the brooding consciousness of the older man."--The New Yorker

"A marvelous book."--The Philadelphia Inquirer

"Petterson fluently jumbles his chronology, sustaining mysteries within several subplots and vivifying evergreen ideas about determinism and the bonds of family. But the real trick is in the way everything finally, neatly converges into an emotional jolt."--Entertainment Weekly (Grade: A)

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About the Author

Per Petterson is the author of five novels, including In the Wake and To Siberia. Out Stealing Horses has won the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and the Norwegian Booksellers' Prize. A former librarian and bookseller, Petterson lives in Oslo, Norway.

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