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The Absolutist by John Boyne
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The Absolutist (2011)

by John Boyne

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3713529,183 (4.04)52
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
    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)
  2. 00
    Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks (NeilDalley)
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» See also 52 mentions

English (29)  Dutch (3)  Spanish (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (34)
Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
Tristan Sadler lives with a horrible secret from his days as a soldier in the Great War. Miraculously he survives that war, practically the only man left out of his company and goes to work in a London publishing company. When we meet him, he is en route by train to a village to complete an errand that he has been steeling himself to perform.

It is John Boyne's task to let that story build and emerge at a dignified pace so as not to alarm the reader by an indelicate revelation. The reader must be drawn gently and delicately to face the truth of Tristan's past, a truth that is shocking and appalling.

It's hard to recall a novel about soldiers at war that is more brutal, about the personal agony of being homosexual 100 years ago in England that is so devastating, and about the ironic nature of courage and cowardice whose meanings are so twisted by those two other factors that when combined, explode in one's face like a flawed grenade.

Boyne writes a strong and unforgiving portrait of a blighted man that will linger with the reader forever. One could only wish that he hadn't ended it so neatly, telling the reader what was already understood. It is only at the very end that his pen trembled, unable to maintain the restrained delicacy that is the strength of the rest of the book. ( )
  Limelite | Aug 10, 2014 |
A good story which doesn't stand up to close inspection, unfortunately. Once past the first few chapters, clumsily introducing a fairly original (for me, anyway) twist on the standard 'trench narrative', I was quickly swept along by the plot, told in flashback. A year after the war, Tristan Sadler travels to Norwich to deliver in person a dead soldier's letters to his sister. He also has a confession to make which will not make him popular, for two reasons.

All very engrossing, but the weak characters and irritating anachronisms kept whittling away at the credibility of the tale until, by the final forced 'twist', I didn't really care about Tristan or his misery. For a start, Tristan is less an unreliable narrator, and more of an awkward author insert. He claims to be the son of a butcher, who joined up at seventeen and was forced to leave school early, yet he speaks like a character from a novel by Evelyn Waugh, and is somehow gainfully employed as a publisher's assistant, straight after returning from the trenches and with no education. Also, Tristan's childhood echoes the 1970s - 'we're an item', 'feel her up' - more than the Edwardian era. The chapters set in France are trenches-by-numbers, with much mud and splattered brains, yet the awkward engineering of the denouement makes a mockery of Tristan and Will's relationship.

In fact, Tristan's doomed devotion to Will was about the only part of the narrative I did buy, despite being telegraphed early and obviously. I would have appreciated further insight and a more 'organic' ending to their relationship, but John Boyne obviously favours the clever literary device.

A fast-paced and dramatic read, let down by style over substance. ( )
  AdonisGuilfoyle | Apr 10, 2014 |
I have, somewhat reluctantly, given this book three stars. The first 80% of the book deserves three stars. It is a well written treatment of war, bravery, so-called cowardice, and sexual confusion and conflict. It was intriguing enough to keep me interested. But, the last two chapters came very close to undoing everything I was feeling about this book. So contrived...so unbelievable. It is difficult for me to recommend this but many others have really loved it. So, judge for yourself. ( )
1 vote m2snick | Feb 19, 2014 |
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 | Jan 23, 2014 |
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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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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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