This Norwegian writer won several prizes in Scandinavia for this novel,which is both a memoir and an WWII epic , which curiously reminds one of The Odyssey by its lyrical evocation of an heroic and elusive father ,always gone away on a long voyage .. The narrator is an old man who, like an hermit, has retired in a cabin in the woods of northern Norway ; the unusual presence of a strange neighbor , who was the brother of his best childhood's friend brings to mind the last summer of his childhood. These summers with his father in the rough,happened during the German occupation , in the countryside of forest and lakes,up north , near the swedish border and they were unforgettable . The boy adored his father,who was an athletic, warm hearted, attractive heroic figure who taught him new skills everyday on horses, boats, forest survival etc and on top of that , led a mysterious erotic life with a neighbor blonde beauty . This summer life was also the antidote to the boy's city life in Oslo with his mother , who like Penelope was relegated in the domestic role, poor pathetic creature .But this paradise of Natural life was shattered by an accidental killing at the neighbor's family and also by the discovery of his father's dangerous activity of underground resistance to the Germans. He was nearly shot .
The narrator is like Telemachus who spent his youth looking for his formidable father always on the run,unseizable, unreachable as all heroes must be, who eventually returned home unannounced and left again probably .. in this case, the father at the end of this fatal summer, sent a final letter of adieux ,left the family in Oslo and disappeared for ever.. We surmise that life was hard and not easy nor glamorous for mother and kids in the city flat and we understand in a way the exile of an old man retiring in the woods looking for peace and simplicity , although we know nothing of his adult life.The tale is sober and unadorned
There are moments of capital importance in all human lives, which take place often in the early years and form our inner paradise : » Out stealing horses « meant riding in the rough the neighbor's horses who was a friend of his father , whom all admired in the small community of summer cabins ,in the gorgeous natural country .The boy was proud of his father and who does not wish really to have an heroic father , even if he abandons you ? Petterson knows however that the price to pay is the discovery of evil and the capacity of suffering brought along with what you could call call pseudo heroic deeds , even if they are immensely appealing. This is a wondeful book, a form of meditation on he power of the past .