Monday, October 08, 2012

The Absolutist by John Boyne

Tristan Sadler and Will Bancroft become fast friends when they are both assigned to training at Aldershot in England before being deployed to Northern France during World War I. This friendship is tested when a taboo attraction develops between the two men. Will is eventually killed at the front, and John Boyne's novel, The Absolutist, opens on the train to Norwich, where Tristan plans to deliver a package of letters to Will’s sister. Boyne alternates between Norwich and flashbacks to Tristan’s time at the front, telling the story of Will’s untimely death. The reader is captivated by many twists and turns in this tragic story of war and love.

The Absolutist is a heartbreaking war story exploring themes of homosexuality and pacifism in an era when neither were accepted by society. Throughout the novel we meet conscientious objectors, often called “feather men,” whose lives are considered expendable by many in the military and society. Along with the protagonist, the reader is presented with the opportunity to mull over the meanings of cowardice and bravery.

Fans of historical fiction will enjoy this moving and thought-provoking war story. Boyne’s sparse and fluid prose is a joy to read, and he is adept at conveying authentic human emotion. Search for The Absolutist and other novels by John Boyne in the VBPL catalog. If you enjoy The Absolutist, you might also like the Erich Remarque classic, All Quiet on the Western Front.

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