Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson


 Out Stealing Horses moves between several connected stories:  a man in his late-60s moves to the wild countryside in Norway and takes us back to a momentous summer when he was 15 and his father took him from Oslo to spend the summer in the countryside in 1948.  There the 15 year old Trond hears of his father’s activity in the Resistance during the war in that same area 4 years earlier.

The title refers to a wild night when his friend Jon takes the 15 year old Trond on an adventure to “steal” the neighbor’s horses, actually just to ride them for a bit.  His father was startled to hear the phrase, as that was the term used for their Resistance activities.

The 60 year old Trond speaks lovingly of making the shack where he proposes to live into a viable shelter by approaching his tasks as his father would have, of the beauty of the wild countryside, and of his connection with his wonderful companion, Lyra, his dog. 

We learn of the connection between Trond and his nearest neighbor Lars who was the younger brother of Jon, the friend who took him out stealing horses.  A day or so before the “horse stealing,” Lars accidentally killed his twin brother at the age of 10 due to the carelessness of Jon.  And it is Lars’ mother that Trond’s father abandoned his family for.  When Trond realizes who Lars is, he goes on for a page about what an unacceptable coincidence this is; all very well for a Dickens novel, but not his world, he says. 

This is a beautifully written, intense and rather mysterious novel.



  • Yes, that is such a good description — beautiful, intense, and mysterious! I am still turning over questions in my mind about the character’s motivations. Did Trond’s father bring him out for that summer just to have the extra help felling the timber? Did his father cut off communication with Trond because he saw Trond as a romantic rival with Jon’s mother? Or did he feel that he couldn’t stay in touch with his children from his first marriage once he remarried? Such a beautifully written book that was a pleasure to read and piece together.


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