Tuesday, January 31, 2012
The Absolutist by John Boyne $39.99
Like The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, John Boyne’s novel The Absolutist has a theme of war. The main character is a young Tristan Sadler. After post World War Tristan feels an obligation to return some personal papers from his late friend and comrade Will Bancroft to Will’s sister Marian. We meet him as he finds his way to a boarding house where he will stay the night before meeting with Marian.
A series of recollections then unfold which take us back to Tristan’s own school days and typical British childhood living with his parents and sister above his father’s butcher shop. A misunderstood male friendship which results in Tristan’s banishment presages his wartime friendship with Will.
This is a novel about a time where Britain needed all its young men to step up and defend the nation. The title refers to a type of conscientious objector who not only objected to fighting but also to supporting the war effort in anyway. We are told that it was not unusual for a conscientious objector to be assigned to duty as a front line stretcher-bearer, which was in effect an execution warrant.
Boyne evokes a beautiful set of friendships and creates some very likeable people. The war effort itself is presented as a rather dreadful experience. This novel will leave you questioning how you yourself would have responded to the circumstances of Tristan’s life. The extreme environment coupled with youthful inexperience and an impossible love lead to a sad and unexpected end that when revealed is very much the heart of this beautifully told story.