OutStealingHorsesWhere do you like to read? The train, the bus or snuggled up on the couch with a mug of cocoa or a glass of something stronger. Maybe with the recent inclement weather you’d rather be lazily swaying in hammock under a couple palm trees.

The other day I found a perfect place to read, you may not agree as to most of you it’s a place of work. I was in the lobby of a Police station; it’s brand spanking new, okay maybe a couple of years old. But its a damn site more welcoming, then the old confessional style window that is still present in some of the older stations. With it’s warm pinky peach colouring and a wide marble topped opening. What got me was the silence; god, I felt I could have completed ‘War and Peace in one sitting while there. But alas the lone female Garda, was quite adamant that it was a different story behind the desk, where she was single-handedly manning the phones and radios.

For this months book ,we move to the opposite range of the spectrum. Pacy and hectic are not how I would describe it. The Norwegian writer Per Pettersen recently won this years Dublin IMPAC literary award. With his English translated book ‘Out Stealing Horses‘. It tells the story of Trond a Norwegian teenager in 1948, who one morning while out in the woods witnesses a friend suffer a breakdown. This leads to the discovery of a personal tragedy and the consequences which will rip their two families apart. Years later and now an old man, Trond is living the life of a recluse in the hills following the sudden death of his wife. When a figure from his past forces him to go back over the whole sordid affair.

This book maybe only 250 pages long, but even that cant save it. From the outset it is a slow moving mess which loses the reader in it’s confusing leaps back and forth between the past and present. The narrative is positively grey, In a summer of rain and overcast skies the last thing I needed was a book set in the colourless Scandinavian winter.


The judges who selected this book to win the prestigious award are so out of sync with this reader to be almost in Oslo themselves. Did we read the same book, if so, they were probably strapped down to do so. Me, I was on the verge of checking into rehab afterwards. As for it’s selection, I personally wouldn’t have selected it for a bring and buy sale, let a lone a recognized literary award. I hope Mr Pettersen enjoys his €100,000 prize money and the accompanying profits from it’s sales.

This books triumph, doesn’t say much for the other shortlisted books which included such luminaries as Sebastian Barry and Salman Rushdie!!!!!, the judges were probably afraid they’d get a Fatwa placed on them.

(Previously published in in 2009)