by John Boyne
Other Press; July 10, 2012
From the inside flap:
It is September 1919: twenty-one-year-old Tristan Sadler takes a train from London to Norwich to deliver a package of letters to the sister of Will Bancroft, the man he fought alongside during the Great War.
But the letters are not the real reason for Tristan’s visit. He can no longer keep a secret and has finally found the courage to unburden himself of it. As Tristan recounts the horrific details of what to him became a senseless war, he also speaks of his friendship with Will–from their first meeting on the training grounds at Aldershot to their farewell in the trenches of northern France. The intensity of their bond brought Tristan happiness and self-discovery but also confusion and unbearable pain.
John Boyne’s The Absolutist is a novel about love and war told in the first-person by Tristan Sadler, a young veteran of World War I who is dealing with intense shame and guilt as a consequence of his involvement in the war. It is a highly thought-provoking novel about conscientious objection and moral absolutism; conformity vs. nonconformity; cowardice vs. bravery; love and loss. The Absolutist depicts the atrocities every soldier faces during war, and how soldiers are affected–both physically and psychologically–by what they see and do. World War I is not the only war that John Boyne writes about in The Absolutist, though; this novel is also about the personal wars of Tristan Sadler and Will Bancroft: both men are fighting their own internal wars, as well as fighting losing battles with each other, the military, and society at large. John Boyne does an excellent job of depicting the lives of people who are relegated to the margins because of who they love and/or what they believe, and the huge amount of courage it takes to stand up for themselves, and more importantly, to stay true to themselves.
Tristan’s story unfolds slowly–one step at a time–by moving between the present and the past, and this format makes The Absolutist a real page-turner. John Boyne writes beautifully, and I almost read it in one sitting–I did not want to put it down. Although its subject matter is very serious and at times heartbreaking, The Absolutist never becomes too heavy or depressing–Boyne does a great job of keeping the emotion in this book well-balanced. This is my first time reading anything by John Boyne, and I will definitely be reading more of his books in the future. I highly recommend The Absolutist to everyone who enjoys reading literary fiction.
P.S. I also recommend reading Geoff’s thoughts about The Absolutist on his blog, The Oddness of Moving Things–it’s a very thoughtful review.
(To learn more about John Boyne, please visit his website.)
**If you choose to purchase this title using the links below, I will receive a small percentage of the sale (to be used toward site maintenance and buying more books).
(I received a copy of this book from the publisher through BOOK CLUB.)