Sunday, July 1, 2012
57. "The Absolutist" by John Boyne
Boyne, John. The Absolutist. New York: Doubleday, 2012.
Reviewed by J. d’Artagnan Love
John Boyne is an Irish writer most known for his novel The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas has sold over 5 million copies and was recently made into a major motion picture. His work has been published in over forty different languages and The Absolutist is his most recent novel.
Set during the first World War, The Absolutist follows seventeen-year-old Tristan Sadler as he lies about his age, enlists in a British regiment, and is sent to the trenches. During basic training at Aldershot, Tristan meets Will, a curious and moral soldier who swiftly entrances Tristan with his depth and physical beauty. Their relationship is not a simple story. It is fraught with confusion, anger, pain, passion, and questioning.
In the trenches they must wrestle with big questions. What is a human life worth? Tristan often thinks about the humanity of the enemy soldiers pondering, “I crawl forward on my belly, holding my rifle before, my left eye firmly closed as I look down the viewfinder for anyone advancing in my direction. I picture myself locking eyes with a boy of my own age, both of us terrified, in the instant before we shoot each other dead” (Boyne). For Tristan, the Germans he is fighting and killing are people, young men just like him.
Will is the son of a vicar and has high moral standards, standards that are too high for the rest of his regiment. He follows in the footsteps of the conscientious objectors that came before him which causes the greatest divide between Will and Tristan. Is an idea or principle worth dying for? What is courage and how does one display it? These are all questions this novel explores in heartbreaking and sobering ways. Boyne does not beat around the bush when it comes to the harsh realities of love and war in 20th century England. By the end of the novel I was in tears.
The Absolutist is captivating. The nonlinear plot kept me riveted and wanting more. The characters possess depth and flaws and are extraordinarily human. Reminiscent of All Quiet on the Western Front, The Absolutist will take you into a world where simple pleasures are “the result of inhuman deprivations” and unconditional love is the greatest form of courage (Boyne).
4.5 darts out of 5
Bookshelf Project Status: KEEP