Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Thursday, 2 June 2011

The Absolutist - John Boyne

I was hooked from the clever and surprising opening sentence of this novel and could not put it down thereafter. This is the beautifully and simply written story of Tristan Sadler, a young man from London who trains and fights as a soldier in World War One, and a story of friendship and of love, of morals and cowardice, and the turmoil and harsh reality of war. 

With a lovely structure, the novel is narrated in the first person throughout by Tristan, with sections alternating between his agonizing post war visit to Norwich in 1919 to deliver letters sent by Marian Bancroft to her brother Will, and his army training in Aldershot and subsequent posting to the front lines of France in 1916. Tristan has been disowned by his family having, in their eyes, disgraced them after an incident with a friend at his school, and he lies about his age to enlist for the war early. 

I feel that to discuss the plot in much more detail here would be to lessen the enjoyment and experience of discovering it as it unfolds, so suffice it to say that this is an intensely sad, moving and compelling novel. 
The concept of an Absolutist in the context of the Great War is explained in the novel as and when the situation arises to which it applies. 

I also think the hardcover dust jacket is beautifully designed and really adds to the appeal of the book in this case, with the striking white feather suspended as it floats from the soldier's hand. 

I am a fan of this author, in particular for two of his novels, Mutiny on the Bounty and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, and look forward to future works by him with relish. 


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