Review: The Absolutist by John Boyne
I was first attracted to this book because I read and enjoyed The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by the same author. This book is a much more adult read and it blew me away.
The story follows a young man, Tristan Sadler, who spends a day in Norwich after the First World War's conclusion meeting a young lady, the sister of his best friend. The opening chapter draws the reader in to Tristan's world and the descriptive writing is excellent.
The book alternates Tristan's visit to Norwich with his time training for the First World War, his time in the trenches and flashbacks from his home life. There are strong echoes of Sebastian Faulks' Birdsong here and it can not be described as an uplifting read.
It is unbearably sad, a painful exploration of a friendship between two men where neither can fully express their own true feelings for each other. It is at times agonising to read their restrained interaction. The author explores repressed homosexuality, bravery and cowardice in wartime and highlights the moral dilemmas that soldiers faced.
Tristan and his friend Will are characters I truly cared for and I was desperate to read their story to its bitter conclusion. An exceptionally moving read that I highly recommend.