Saturday, February 8, 2014
Book Review: The Absolutist by John Boyne
Author: John Boyne
Enjoyment Rating: ****
This book would be rated: R for language and violence
It's 1919 and Tristan Sadler is one of the few who returned to England after the Great War. He's on a train on his way to Norwich to visit the sister of a a deceased soldier who had been in his training group, and deliver the letters she had written her brother. It becomes evident very quickly that Sadler is uncomfortable about the journey, about how Will died, and about himself. The story alternates between present-day (1919) reminiscences and flashbacks to the times Tristan and Will were together.
Readers quickly pick up on the fact that Tristan feels responsible for Will's death in some way, and that Will died in shame. Boyne keeps readers interested in both figuring out the puzzle of Will's death, and in the story happening in Norwich between Tristan and Will's sister. Clues to Tristan's secret seem fairly obvious in retrospect, but Boyne does an excellent job with his characters, with the pacing, and with creating the world of 1919. I especially enjoyed the final chapters, which took the story into the 1980s and created a plausible explanation for the existence of the novel.