Friday, April 30, 2021

2021 - 69 - The Absolutist; John Boyne

TITLE/AUTHOR:  The Absolutist; John Boyne

PUBLISHER:  Other Press

YEAR PUBLISHED: 2011 (reissue - 4/2021)

GENRE: Fiction / Historical / War Fiction / LGBT

FORMAT:  print LENGTH: 309 pp.

SOURCE:  sent to me by Other Press

SETTING(s):  France and London


ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY:  An unforgettable, beautifully written and heart-wrenching story about choices we make and the regrets that sometimes follow.

BRIEF REVIEW:   When this book was first published in 2012, I just didn't think it was a story for me but, was I ever wrong.

What is an "absolutist?"  We are told that when it comes to war, it is worse than being a conscientious objector. Not only does an "absolutist"  refuse to fight in a war they also refuse to perform ANY duties to help in the war effort like helping out on the sidelines or in a hospital for example.

The story begins in 1919 on a train with Tristan Sadler traveling to visit Marian, the sister of Will Bancroft, a very close friend of Tristans and fallen soldier.  The purpose of the visit is to return a stack of letters that Marion wrote Will during the war.  The two young men were briefly, intimately involved while serving in France.  While Will preferred to forget the incidents and made light of them, Tristan could not forget the encounters as he cared deeply for Will.

Many issues are covered in this beautiful story: family, courage, cowardice, friendships, pressures to conform, homophobia and more. Never do the issues overwhelm the storyline.  It's actually a simple story, yet masterfully written. Through flashbacks from 1919 to 1916 the reader gets a clear picture of what happened but, it isn't until you get closer to the ending that the real shock and impact of the story hits you.  The story ends with Tristan as an old man in 1979. This is a story I'll never forget.  I'm more determined than ever to read everything that John Boyne has written; his books The Boy in the Striped Pajamas,  and A Ladder to the Sky  were other books of his that have never left me. If you decide to read this book (please do) go into it blind, like I did and don't read too many reviews. The story is written in such a way that it does not give anything away too soon at least, you get just small pieces in just the right doses.  This would make an excellent book club discussion choice.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

NOTE: Thanks go to Other Press for sending this book my way in exchange for my unbiased review.

MEMORABLE QUOTES:  

"Astonishing how everyone is willing to go abroad to fight for the foreigners while having such little concern for those of  their own countrymen at home."

" I think perhaps the adults we become are formed in childhood and there's no way around it."

"I felt that this is what it must be like to be married to someone, a constant back and forth of bickering, watching out for any stray comment in a conversation that might be corrected,  anything to keep gaining the upper hand, the advantage, bringing one closer to taking the game, the set, the whole blasted match without ever conceding a point."

21 comments:

  1. I've heard such good things about John Boyne's writing, I really need to give this author a try.

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  2. I liked Boy in the Striped Pajamas so will add this one to my TBR list as well. WWI is so interesting and this one sounds fantastic.

    Have you read Michael Morpurgo's War Horse?

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    1. I haven't read the book but, have seen a movie by the same title that we loved.

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  3. That does sound like a really good story!!!

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  4. I've never read a book by this author. I'm glad you enjoyed the book so much!

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    1. I know you listen to a lot of audios but, the audio would be one to avoid. The 1.0 speed was too fast and ,75 was annoyingly slow.

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  5. I've read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and of course it did me in. I have never even heard of this one or even thought to see what else he has written. Hmmm. I am going to have to pick a book for club soon. I should look into this one too.

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    1. It was a wonderful experience - love when that happens. I hope you get a chance to try it.

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  6. I loved A Ladder To the Sky (reviewed here) and The Heart's Invisible Furies (reviewed here), but I didn't care for The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Your review of this older title has convinced me to break my vow to not purchase any books in 2021. Thanks for the great review, Diane!

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    1. Les,

      I know you listen to a lot of audios but, the audio of this story would be one to avoid. The 1.0 speed was too fast and ,75 was annoyingly slow.

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    2. Good to know! I listened to a sample and didn't care for it, so I'll go with the paperback. :)

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  7. This is the first time that I've heard the term "absolutist" in this context. I can't imagine how difficult it would be to withstand the mental and physical pressure to give up those beliefs after being caught up in the military during a war. There was one CO in my 1968 basic training platoon, and he turned out to be one of the bravest guys in the whole platoon because of the abuse he was prepared to take from the two drill instructors. He made it all the way through - somehow - and I lost track of him from that point, but I still sometimes think about him. He was one of the brightest guys I ever ran into in the army, and we sometimes, even in that environment, sat and talked about books in order to put our minds in a different place.

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    1. Try this one Sam or some of the other books written by John Boyne.
      When I was younger, I always thought girls/women, in general, had it rough compared to boys/men. However, after reading this story and other wartime stories over the year, I'm glad I was born female. My life has been a good one.

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  8. I want to read The Heart's Invisible Furies and still looking for a copy. This sounds lovely. <3

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    1. Me too, I actually took it from the library but never ended up reading it. Hope to get to it soon.

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  9. I've not read John Boyne, but this one certainly sounds like a winner.

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  10. We visited many WWI sites in France in 2018 ... so this novel sounds like a good companion to that ... I will check it out do to you enthusiasm ... thx

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  11. I keep meaning to read more Boyne. Thanks for the reminder!

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