Absolutist

Absolutist

4.6 16
by John Boyne
     
 

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“A novel of immeasurable sadness, in a league with Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair. John Boyne is very, very good at portraying the destructive power of a painfully kept secret.”
John Irving

A masterfully told tale of passion, jealousy, heroism and betrayal set in the gruesome trenches of World War I.

Overview

“A novel of immeasurable sadness, in a league with Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair. John Boyne is very, very good at portraying the destructive power of a painfully kept secret.”
John Irving

A masterfully told tale of passion, jealousy, heroism and betrayal set in the gruesome trenches of World War I.

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 as well as confusion and unbearable pain.

The Absolutist is a masterful tale of passion, jealousy, heroism, and betrayal set in one of the most gruesome trenches of France during World War I. This novel will keep readers on the edge of their seats until its most extraordinary and unexpected conclusion, and will stay with them long after they've turned the last page.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Boyne’s new novel documents the lives of two inseparable men navigating the trenches of WWI and the ramifications of a taboo involvement. The emotive wartime saga is narrated by Tristan Sadler, a soldier en route to visit his dead comrade Will Bancroft’s older sister Marian in Norwich, England, a few years after serving in the Great War. The story oscillates between Sadler’s trip in 1919 to return Will’s letters to Marian, and recollections of wartime, including a forbidden and fleeting homosexual affair with Bancroft, depicted by Boyne with the same polite, properly delicate prose that permeates the book. Bancroft is the self-declared “absolutist” of the title, objecting not only to fighting, but to doing anything at all that would “further the war effort.” Sadler’s feelings for Bancroft bring him shame amid the horrors of battle, eventually making an absolutist of Sadler as well. When the young Sadler confides the details of his time with Bancroft to Marian, she rejects him, a reaction echoed 60 years later, by which time Sadler has come into his own as a literary sensation. Once again he braves Marian’s disapproval, inciting a final heartbreak. A relentlessly tragic yet beautifully crafted novel from Boyne (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas). Agent: Bonnie Nadell, Hill Nadell Literary Agency. (July)
From the Publisher
"A thought-provoking and surprising page-turner that for some readers may recall Ian McEwan's Atonement, another novel with themes of war and recrimination." —Library Journal Starred Review
Library Journal
This award-winning Irish author (The Boy in Striped Pyjamas) has written a most English book. In 1919, young Tristan Sadler, a recovering veteran of World War I, travels by train to Norwich to return some letters to the sister of regiment mate Will Bancroft, who was killed in combat. Readers looking forward to refined conversation over tea as the two lament his death are in for an uncomfortable shock, as alternating lengthy chapters descend into the hell of a war not well remembered now: the mud, lice, and rats in the subterranean trenches, to say nothing of the carnage in meaningless battles. Tristan struggles with huge secrets. One is his homosexuality, which, in early 20th-century fashion, is not named outright. The other is Will's ultimate fate, brought about as the understaffed British troops arguably go mad under the pressures of war. VERDICT A thought-provoking and surprising page-turner that for some readers may recall Ian McEwan's Atonement, another novel with themes of war and recrimination.—Reba Leiding, James Madison Univ. Libs., Harrisonburg, VA
Kirkus Reviews
A novel set in the trenches of World War I, one of several by Irish author Boyne (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, 2006, etc.) staged amid the 20th century's worst moments. As the story opens, Tristan Sadler, who has just turned 21, is in the countryside north of London, looking to deliver a packet of letters from a wartime friend, Will Bancroft, to Will's sister. Sadler is at once shattered and defiant: He has survived the horrors of the Western Front, one of just two boys--and boys most of them were--in his basic training unit to make it out alive. As for the rest: Well, Boyne honors convention by giving each soldier a turn in the spotlight, sometimes briefly, sometimes for symbolic purposes. One is killed off fairly early on in the proceedings, but not before he has had the chance to trouble the unit with doubts about just what this war among royal cousins is all about. In time, the seditious spirit will spread to Will, who, for complex and subtle reasons, has decided to become an "absolutist"--that is, to have absolutely no part in the war effort, not even as a stretcher bearer. That's the kind of thing that can get a fellow in trouble in the king's army--and so, too, the forbidden love that Will and Tristan share. If Will is an absolutist, then Tristan is a situationist; when Will asks him whether he has any principles, he replies, "No. ... People, perhaps. But not principles. What good are they?" Some of the key moments of the book--notably an encounter with a frightened German soldier--are very effective.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780552775403
Publisher:
Black Swan Books, Limited
Publication date:
05/28/2012

Read an Excerpt

The Absolutist


By John Boyne

Other Press

Copyright © 2012 John Boyne
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781590515525

“Keep it together, Tristan,” he tells me quietly, putting a hand around my shoulder as his eyes search to make and hold a connection with my own, his fingers pressing tightly around my flesh, sending a current of electricity through me despite my grief; it’s only the second time he’s touched me since England—the first was when he helped to lift me off the floor of the deluged trench—and the only time he’s spoken to me since the boat.
   “Keep it together, yes? For all our sakes.”
   I step closer to him and he pats my arm in consolation, leaving his hand there longer than is necessary.
   “What did Rigby mean when he said he was sorry to hear about…well, he didn’t finish his   sentence.”
   “It doesn’t matter,” I say, moving forward in my grief to put my head down on his shoulder, and he pulls me to him for a moment, his hand at the back of my head, and I am almost certain that his lips brush the top of my hair but then Turner and Sergeant Clayton come into sight, the loud voice of the latter complaining about some new disaster, and we separate once again. I wipe the tears from my eyes and look at him but he’s turned away and my thoughts return to my oldest friend, dead like so many others. I wonder why in God’s name I ever went to look at Rich, Parks, and Denchley’s bodies when I could have been in my foxhole all this time, grabbing a few minutes’ sleep, and knowing nothing about any of this, nothing about home or Chiswick High Street, my mother, my father, Peter, or the whole bloody lot of them. “

Continues...

Excerpted from The Absolutist by John Boyne Copyright © 2012 by John Boyne. Excerpted by permission of Other Press, a division of Random House, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"A thought-provoking and surprising page-turner that for some readers may recall Ian McEwan's Atonement, another novel with themes of war and recrimination." —-Library Journal Starred Review
John Irving
I became an admirer of John Boyne's writing with his first novel, The Thief of Time. His latest, The Absolutist, is a novel of immeasurable sadness, in a league with Graham Greene's The End of the Affair and a no less masterful handling of the first-person narrative voice than Michael Ondaatje's The Cat's Table. Boyne is very, very good at portraying the destructive power of a painfully kept secret — not to mention the damage done by the self-recriminations (and other condemnations) that are released when that secret is revealed. The Absolutist is one of those great stories that is not what it first seems, though what the story appears to be is a powerful enough premise to begin any novel: a young soldier, returning from World War One, is traveling from London to Norwich to deliver some letters to the grieving sister of a fallen comrade. We presume that the worst of what has happened is what we already know or have imagined of those trenches in northern France. (Boyne is also very, very good at historical fiction; The Absolutist begins in September 1919. ) But the young soldier, who is twenty-one, has something to confess; this is a forbidden love story, a gay love story, but one with a terrible twist...
— John Irving

Meet the Author

John Boyne was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1971. He is the author of nine novels (seven for adults and two for children), including The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, which was made into an award-winning film. The novel also won two Irish Book Awards, was short-listed for the British Book Award, reached the top of the New York Times Best Sellers list, and has sold more than five million copies. His novels are published in forty-five languages. He lives in Dublin. Please visit him at www.johnboyne.com

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Absolutist 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
BookHussy More than 1 year ago
Tristan Sadler, disowned by his family, enlists in the British army at the age of 17 to fight in the Great War. He almost immediately falls in love with Will, another soldier, during training who later becomes an 'absolutist' when they are fighting on the front lines. An absolutist is a soldier who refuses to participate in a war whatsoever. Will was shot by a firing squad as a coward. After the war, Tristan is shattered by what he has seen and experienced. He finally travels to Norwich to meet with Will's sister to return a packet of letters...and to unburden himself and convince Will's family that he did not die as a coward. Please let me say that this book is SO much more than I have attempted to describe...the characters are so well-drawn, the plot so deftly layered. You will constantly be surprised by secrets, nuances and tragedies. This is an amazing novel, and I highly recommend it. My review does not do it justice.
MaryRidgway More than 1 year ago
John Boyne creates a vivid scene of the brutality of war and the emotional turmoil of young boys sent to the trenches of France in the Great War. Tristan, a troubled lad who has been shunned by his family, enlists when under age in order to fight. He is drawn to the charismatic Will, who plays with his heart and only adds to Tristan's confusion. When Will is branded a coward and sentenced to death by firing squad, Tristan must grapple with the true meaning of being a featherman in a way that will have repercussions for his entire life. Boyne skilfully explores the dilemma of moral courage vs duty to country through the journey of two young soldiers thrust too soon into manhood in the madness of battle. And through his absorbing prose the reader will, just as Tristan does, finally realise that honour has many different meanings.
ChadlyAZ More than 1 year ago
One of the best written, although sadly tragic gay love stories every written. Tastefully written for all readers it is a true tales of love, tragedy, devotion, pain, and agony set during the great war. Well written with excellent character development. Highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great Book! Could not put it down.
Barbara2 More than 1 year ago
I thought this was a very powerful book depicting the horrors and futility of war and of the derision and hatred suffered by those who do not join in "the game". Mr. Boyne knows just how to weave his story so that we are always kept wondering, moving from the present to the past and back again for his characters. It is a very sad story and the events of his military stint and brief encounters with the man he so admires and grows to love influence his entire life. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more of Mr. Boyne's works.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you want a story that grabs you and stays with you, then this novel is for you.
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PenelopeSue More than 1 year ago
loved it