Tuesday, 14 August 2007

The Hobbit & Out Stealing Horses

Who can say what strange urges come upon you when you suddenly *have* to reread a certain book? And it's no use ignoring them - not even chocolate drives them away! With me, last week, it was The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein that demanded my attention.

I can't actually remember how many times I've read it to be honest and it may even be just once as a lot of it was strangely unfamiliar. But this copy of it, dated 1971 (I do have another very posh boxed edition bought for me one Christmas by my youngest daughter), is looking rather ratty. So, either I've read it more than once or someone else has. :::Points finger of suspicion at Eldest Daughter::: I do know that this was one of the very first books I treated myself to when I got my first job - in a bank as a matter of fact, where I met my future husband, but that's a whole 'nother story as they say...

Most people know the plot so I won't go into loads of detail - Bilbo Baggins is *chosen* by Gandalf the Grey to go on an adventure with thirteen dwarves. The mission (should he choose to accept it) is to retrieve the dwarves' treasure from the clutches of Smaug the dragon, who has taken possession of it inside The Lonely Mountain. Lots of fun this one... my favourite bit being the rather creepy section where they travel through Mirkwood and encounter the wood elves. A good, enjoyable read leading to a reread of The Lord of the Rings, next year maybe.


Sometimes a book is so good you've no idea how to do the thing justice. I read Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson (translated by Anne Born) for a 'Book-in-a-day' challenge on Live Journal. So it's not very long - 266 pages - or I would never have been able to finish it in a day. But the impact it packs into those few pages is immense.

The book is in set in Norway in the present day but there are flashbacks to 1948. 'Trond' is now sixty seven and has moved to a small village on the edge of the forest to be alone. He then discovers that a near neighbour is someone from his childhood, from a summer he spent with his father, in 1948, in another small village near the Swedish border. It brings back memories of traumatic events and we are fed information very slowly because that's what the book is - an unhurried recollection of certain happenings, some concerned with WW2, some just after, and some simply about a boy growing into manhood.

The writing here is just fabulous - I'm sure some credit should go to the woman who translated but it is honestly beautiful, so descriptive and at the same time gentle and unhurried and not at all spare. I liked this novel a *lot* - I don't read a great deal of modern literature of this type so this is praise indeed coming from me. Judging by this I should definitely read more.

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