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The Absolutist by John Boyne
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The Absolutist (2011)

by John Boyne

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4753621,755 (4.05)59
Member:sefkhet
Title:The Absolutist
Authors:John Boyne
Info:Black Swan Books, Limited, Paperback
Collections:Read in 2012, Beth's Library
Rating:***
Tags:twenty-first century literature, british literature, fiction, wars of the twentieth century, lgbt themes, psychiatry and mental health themes

Work details

The Absolutist by John Boyne (2011)

  1. 00
    A Long, Long Way by Sebastian Barry (SandSing7)
    SandSing7: Both poignant, moving takes on World War I by Irish writers.
  2. 00
    Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (Limelite)
    Limelite: Writing styles are similar as is the triangle of relationships and some thematic material. They differ thematically in that Waugh deals with Catholicism and faith in his novel while Boyne barely gives a nod in the direction of religion much beyond a bit of cloudy philosophy.… (more)
  3. 00
    Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks (NeilDalley)
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» See also 59 mentions

English (31)  Dutch (3)  Spanish (1)  Catalan (1)  English (36)
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
READ IN ENGLISH

The latest novel by John Boyne! I couldn't wait to read it, but unfortunately I was supposed to get this book as a Christmas present (First World Problems), so I had to wait a little time.

It was a real touching story in my humble opinion. I personally don't really know a lot about the 'Great War' aka The First World War. This has to do with the fact that The Netherlands were neutral during WW1 and therefore don't have the same feeling about it. We did suffer a lot during the Second World War though, so most of our history classes are about WW2.

Needless to say terrible things happen during the book, and it is awful to think those have really happened. The Dutch title is - translated - The White Feather, I now understand why. The writing style was, once more, very nice and once again John Boyne picked an episode from history to write a wonderful book to teach us about it. ( )
  Floratina | May 26, 2016 |
The Absolutist is set in England and France. Half the plot occurs during World War I with the rest occurring after the war when a vet, Tristan Sadler, travels to Norwich from London to deliver a set of letters to the sister of Will Bancroft, a soldier who fought in France, alongside Tristan. Will died during the war, but not in battle. He was executed for an act of cowardice. The book has multiple themes running through it including the horrors of war, the issues homosexuals dealt with in an era more repressive than our current time, and a definition of bravery.

Tristan lies about his age so he can enlist at seventeen. The reason he feels the need to escape from his home life is revealed as the novel progresses. He finds himself in an outfit run be a sergeant and corporals who use sadistic methods to turn the boys into warriors. This is expected in any boot camp situation, but the way one soldier, Wolf, is dealt with appears to go way over the line. This incident affects Will more than any of the others and also affects Tristan, because he was jealous of Will's relationship with Wolf. The soldiers go on to France to fight the war along with the same men who trained them. Now they are living in trenches, risking their lives daily, and watching as young men they know well die.

The issue of homosexuality is introduced with a long section about a room in a boarding house. The prejudices of the time were also shown later as Tristan's problems became known, so this section could have been left out without hurting the book. It felt as if Boyne was trying to establish the theme for himself rather than the reader. But other than that early portion, the issue of Trisan's sexuality was handled brilliantly. The bigotry was made clear. The lines between friendship and love and between comfort and sexual attraction were blurred. The shame was there, sometimes subtle and sometimes not. And the novel's ending was powerful because of the careful development of the characters.

I believe the book was named The Absolutist because the definition of bravery is its main theme. There are many examples of both bravery and cowardice throughout the novel and different readers will come to different conclusions about them. Certainly fighting for one's country is one example of courage, but although this novel has the trenches of wartime France as one of its main settings, the most interesting examples of courage or lack of courage are in the subtle issues relating to principle and acceptance.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions ( )
  SteveLindahl | Apr 7, 2016 |
The hidden trials of war.

Although I find it hard to read about life in the trenches, this book was so well written that it drew me in in spite of the difficult content.
I liked that we were taken back to peaceful post-war England from time to time, to break up the horror of war.

The main character is Tristan Sadler, who is twenty-one when we meet him on his way to visit the sister of his wartime friend, Will Bancroft. By a series of back-stories and explanations to Will's sister, we learn what happened between them during training and on the Front.
Tristan is wracked by guilt and needs to speak to the one person who knew Will intimately. I'm not sure that revealing his secret was a good move, but he felt he couldn't keep it to himself any longer. Nowadays psychologists would be on hand for such situations, but this was post WWI.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, giving it 5 stars, there were definitely some blips, some of which really annoyed other members of my book group. Will Bancroft's behaviour towards Tristan, although understandable on some levels, caused a great deal of dissent, for example. I decided to leave my original rating, however.

I've only previously read Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (5 stars) by this author and I shall certainly be looking out for more by him in the future. ( )
  DubaiReader | Oct 13, 2015 |
Hmm... I pretty much took up this book for the same reasons as Lynn's:

"1. It takes place during world war 1 thus it must be teeming with enriching historical insertions that I take in with relish.
2. It is a gay romance, thus it must vigorously investigate homosexual liaisons and the torment of their clandestinity during the Great War.
"

I LOVE reading historical fiction (especially when it concerns world war one or two) and stories about gay people. Putting them together? I couldn't resist buying this book. But after finishing it, it left me unsatisfied for the most part because John Boyne did not touch on the deeper matters that concern homosexuality during the war. Sure, he says a lot about the cruelty of war and justified principles, which I found interesting and thought-provoking. And he did touch on the matter of concealing one's sexual orientation during that time. However, when it comes to Tristan and Will's homosexual relationship, I wasn't satisfied. Not only was it a one-sided affection (an idea I don't reject but which I think really limits the area into which the story can expand), there weren't a lot of communication(I can't find the right word atm) between them. I don't know if it's the added post-war narration that causes it or if it's merely because of the lack of information written in... but it was insufficient for me. And that really brought down my rating for this book.

In the end, I think it was an enjoyable read but it, ultimately, did not quench my thirst for an insightful account of a gay romance set during the great war. I'd love to read something similar in the future! ( )
  novewong | Jul 8, 2015 |
Tristan Sadler is going to meet the sister of his WWI companion Will Bancroft to give her Will's letters. The story moves back and forth between the present and the war as Tristan tells Marian what it was like. Sad, touching, difficult to put down. ( )
  tloeffler | Mar 13, 2015 |
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added by gsc55 | editMichael Joseph (Oct 21, 2013)
 
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Seated opposite me in the railway carriage, the elderly lady in the fox-fur shawl was recalling some of the murders that she had committed over the years.
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September 1919: twenty-one-year-old Tristan Sadler takes a train from London to Norwich to deliver some letters to Marian Bancroft. Tristan fought alongside Marian's brother Will during the Great War, but in 1917 Will laid down his guns on the Battlefield, declared himself a conscientious objector and was shot as a traitor, an act which has brought shame and dishonour on the Bancroft family.

But the letters are not the real reason for Tristan's visit. He holds a secret deep in his soul. One that he is desperate to unburden himself of to Marian, if he can only find the courage.

As he recalls his friendship with Will, from the training ground at Aldershot to the trenches of Northern France, he speaks of how the intensity of their friendship brought him both happiness and self-discovery as well as despair and pain.

The Absolutist is a novel that examines the events of the Great War from the perspective of two young soldiers, both struggling with the complexity of their emotions and the confusion of their friendship.
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Tristan Sadler, a gay soldier, recalls his time spent fighting in World War I and the intensity of his friendship with Will Bancroft, a soldier who became a conscientious objector and was shot as a traitor.

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