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The Absolutist

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3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  5,013 ratings  ·  889 reviews
A masterfully told tale of passion, jealousy, heroism and betrayal set in the gruesome trenches of World War I.

It is September 1919: twenty-one-year-old Tristan Sadler takes a train from London to Norwich to deliver a package of letters to the sister of Will Bancroft, the man he fought alongside during the Great War.

But the letters are not the real reason for Tristan's vi
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Paperback, 309 pages
Published July 10th 2012 by Other Press (first published 2011)
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Maurice by E.M. ForsterBrokeback Mountain by Annie ProulxThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar WildeGiovanni's Room by James BaldwinTales of the City by Armistead Maupin
Best Gay Fiction
146th out of 1,133 books — 1,438 voters
The Sense of an Ending by Julian BarnesThe Night Circus by Erin MorgensternThe Tiger's Wife by Téa ObrehtThe Absolutist by John BoyneThe Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
Impac Dublin Award 2013 Long List
4th out of 154 books — 52 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Dem
I really enjoyed this novel and found it an emotional read. While reading this book I exclaimed out loud and cried and for me this is the basis on which I award 5 stars, I try to write a review on a novel as soon as I can after putting the book down as I like my review to express my feelings of the book when I closed the covers be that good bad or indifferent. The absolutist had me so emotionally charged that I was thinking about the story even when I was not reading it.

The Absolutist is a wart
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Erastes
I was immediately drawn to the book because it’s partly set in my stamping ground of Norfolk. The protagonist Tristan is on his way to Norwich at the beginning to meet a mysterious someone or other which is nicely protracted until it needs to be revealed. There’s a irritating and lengthy section in his boarding house which achieved nothing other than to tell the reader “oh no, homosexuality is verboten in England” as if they wouldn’t know and “people don’t like it” which of course they know too. ...more
Miles
How does one begin to review “The Absolutist” by John Boyne? To say I am, forgive me while I use a World War one descriptive, shell shocked, would be an understatement. Sitting quietly in the corner of the living room merely an hour after finishing the book, subdued lighting my only company and a book jacket design I find hard to tear myself from, I gorge in its simplicity, its effectiveness, its evocativeness. Breath-taking.

The British Army, by the end of “The Great War”, had dealt with 80,000
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Cynthia
Yes or No?

It sounds over simplistic but much of life's choices do come down to a yes or a no. Some things are non-negotiable. Our hero, Tristan Sadler, knows who he is, he's always known. His problem is how others react to that. Though it's a gift that he's become clear about his values he still has to fit into the world and he has a sincere desire to connect with others. "The Absolutist" is a coming of age story set against the First World War. This might sound dated but Tristan's dilemmas are
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Ryan G
There aren't a lot of books that can break my heart. No matter how much I'm able to connect with the characters or find myself lost in the action, I don't make a habit of emotionally investing myself on such a visceral level. It's not something I make a conscience decision on, I just read so much that if I allowed myself to put my emotions into every book I read, I would be a basket case. But every once in a while, I can't help myself. I allow myself to fully invest in what I'm reading. I get so ...more
Carol
May 21, 2012 Carol rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Carol by: Paul Kozlowski, Associate Publisher Other Press
Shelves: fiction
My enjoyment of The Absolutist took me by surprise. I honestly wasn't expecting to like it as much as I did. So much for preconceived notions.

The Absolutist is a war story, one that takes place during World War I, not one of my favorite subjects. But this one is so well written and poignant that it caught my attention immediately and kept me turning those pages, even when I couldn't bear the outcome. The opening scenes give us a glimpse of Tristan Sadler, a young war-weary soldier as he returns
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Carol
John Boyne brings the muddy trenches of WWI to life as twenty-one year old Tristan Sadler narrates the story of his young life and personal friendship with Will Bancroft. This unforgettable story has much sadness and heartbreak as Tristan unleashes his whopper of a secret, but OMGOSH, what a page-turner complete with vivid descriptions of the horrors of war and a horror of a father.

This is my third JB novel and definitely won't be my last. The powerful ending made it a 5 star read for me.

Alyce (At Home With Books)
The Absolutist begins with a soldier named Tristan traveling to visit the sister of his friend Will, who fought with him in World War I. Then it flashes back to Tristan’s experiences in basic training where he meets Will for the first time and they form a close friendship. From that point on the story alternates between the two time periods.

Early on in the novel it becomes obvious that Tristan’s affections for the male friends in his life mean more to him than just normal fond feelings of camara
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Dianne
Interesting World War I historical fiction narrated by a man carrying a tremendous burden. The narrator, Tristan, is pitch-perfect but some of the other characters seemed too broadly or inconsistently sketched and felt "unreal." Nevertheless, a real page turner and I liked it.

One observation - it wasn't really about the absolutist. Shouldn't it have been called "The Feather Man?"
Lynn Beyrouthy
When I added this book to my want-to-read list on GR, it was for the following reasons:
1. It takes place during world war 1 thus it must be teeming with enriching historical insertions that I take in with relish.
2. It is a gay romance, thus it must vigorously investigate homosexual liaisons and the torment of their clandestinity during the Great War.

For those reasons, I had presumed that The Absolutist would appeal to my tastes.
But, as my one-star rating would suggest, this book did not impress
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Lisa
This book was brilliant! It was everything I was hoping for and a whole lot more besides.

Set predominately in the year 1919, the story unfolds through the eyes of former soldier Tristan Sadler as he struggles to come to terms with events in his past, namely his experiences in the trenches during the First World War in 1916 and his intense, complicated relationship with fellow soldier Will Bancroft, all of which is told through a series of flashbacks. Through these flashbacks, the horrors and tra
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Sandy
I motored through this book much more quickly than I usually read a novel. The story was compelling; the dialogue moved me along quickly. Off the top of my head, I can say that the book was not "enjoyable" -- but considering the subject matter, it was probably not meant to be. I didn't "like" the characters. Liking or not liking them was not the point. They were all human beings, dealing with a variety of stresses. How could they be likeable? Life was a struggle. Life was hell. The point is that ...more
Bill
I had heard of this novel through the Books on the Nightstand podcast. I believe both Ann and Michael were highly recommending it.

I finished it last night, and as I sit here pondering what to write about it, I'm also torn between giving it one or five stars.
Yeah, you read that right. I can't decide if I didn't like it or if was it amazing.

Well, I can't give it one star. This is a book that will stay with me a very long time. In my world, that criteria ranks five stars.

However:

Here's where things
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Noeleen
The Absolutist is set during one of my most favourite historical fiction time periods, the first World War. It tells the story of the relationship between two young soldiers Tristan Sadler and Will Bancroft, from their time training at Aldershot to the battles in the trenches in France during the war. The story begins after the war in 1919 when Tristan arranges a meeting with Will’s sister, Marian, to return letters that Will wrote to her during the war. The story alternates between the meeting ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This is the second novel I've read by John Boyne (the other being A History of Loneliness) and already I feel like they were both written to a formula. Moving backwards and forwards in time with a terrible secret only revealed in the end. I always am surprised to see Boyne's youngish face in his author photo, just a few years older than me, because his novels always feel as if they are coming from someone who has lived their entire life.

The main character and narrator is Tristan Sadler, a Briti
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Donna
I always seem to separate the writing from the actual story. I can't help it. I am a student of writing styles and so I'm lucky because with each book, I also get a story to go along with it...so life is good.

I loved the writing in this book. It seemed so subtle but yet it managed to still pack a whollop. It was really fascinating to see the story unfold in this way. I also liked the structure of the story. It was woven so beautifully, always revealing just enough until a little later when more
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Tania
...not every soldier out there wanted to fight at all. Each of us fell at a different point on a spectrum from pacifism to unremitting sadism. Bloodthirsty fellows, saturated in some overzealous sense of patriotism, who would still be over there even now, killing Germans, if they were given the chance. Introspective chaps who did their duty, anything that was asked of them, but didn't care for it at all.

3.5 stars. This was a difficult book to rate. The war scenes were incredibly realistic and h
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Darlene
I came across this book by chance. I picked it up and while reading the inside cover, I realized that the author, John Boyne, is also the author of "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas:.... a book I really loved. This story takes place during the Great War and the time immediately after the war ends. War veteran Tristan Sadler, who is 20 years old in the fall of 1919, takes a train from his home in London to Norwich to deliver a package to the sister of a soldier he fought beside in northern France. ...more
Lane
Bestselling author of Boy in the Striped Pajamas, John Boyne, returns to the theme of examining a period in history throu...gh the eyes of two boys. Conscripted into the army at eighteen years of age, Will Bancroft is the son of a vicar, raised in the genteel English countryside. Seventeen year old Londoner Tristan Sadler, having been kicked out of home early in life by his abusive family, lied about his age and illegally enlisted in the army. The two meet in bootcamp at Aldershot and quickly fo ...more
Patrice Hoffman
I try not to write reviews that consist of the phrases "a must read" or "it was an awesome book" only because people who read reviews want to know more. I initially did not write a review because I wanted to be lazy. Nor did I want to have to go into detail about all the themes that are presented in this novel. Themes such as true love, betrayal, cowardice, finding ones self, homosexuality, and basic human nature (good and bad).

I don't want to give anything away so I will say that this it was an
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Marleen
This is not a happy or an uplifting story. It is however beautifully written and heartbreakingly human.
The story in this book is narrated by Tristan Sadler.
In September 1919 he travels from London to Norwich to deliver letters to Marian Bancroft. During the First World War Tristan trained and fought alongside her brother, Will and during that time they became friends.
From the start it is clear that Tristan is troubled about meeting Marian and unsure how much he will end up tell her about what pr
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Kernos
Nov 22, 2014 Kernos rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those interested in GLBT period pieces
This is a sad book, a tragedy that will have an emotional effect on you. There is a sense of fate or destiny as the events in Tristan's life unfold. It reminds me of Oedipus' journey. Did Tristan have choices which might have changed the outcome of his tragedy? I think I would have acted differently at the climactic event. How the trenches of WWI France would have effected me, makes this very uncertain. How much freedom do any of us have in our choices?

I see the book as the unavoidable effects s
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Natylie Baldwin
The Absolutist is a story about two young British men, Tristan and Will, who struggle to demonstrate courage within their complicated friendship that develops in the trenches of the First World War.

One of the main questions explored is physical courage versus moral courage and, more specifically, what is the relationship between the two.

Each character both succeeds and fails in navigating the different avenues of moral courage that they are confronted with.

Will is willing to die to take a stand
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Lindsay (Little Reader Library)
I was hooked from the clever and surprising opening sentence of this novel and could not put it down thereafter. This is the beautifully and simply written story of Tristan Sadler, a young man from London who trains and fights as a soldier in World War One, and a story of friendship and of love, of morals and cowardice, and the turmoil and harsh reality of war.

With a lovely structure, the novel is narrated in the first person throughout by Tristan, with sections alternating between his agonizin
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Marialyce
Oh, how very tragic, sad, and moving this novel was! It made the reality of World War 1 ever more so awful as this author managed to make the reader aware and knowing due to his unforgettable and complex characters. Having read three books fairly recently about the "great" war, a misnomer if ever there was one, the plight and hardship suffered by these young men was unbelievable. It broke my heart to again be reminded of the carnage, the loss of young lives, and the utter depravity of war.

We see
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Barb
It's 1919 and Tristan Sadler has established a life after the war. One of only two soldiers from his unit to survive the fighting in France, he's made an errand for himself; to deliver his friend Will Bancroft's letters to Will's older sister, Marian. He wants to tell her about her brother, the friend he trained beside and fought with in the trenches, he wants to tell her about their friendship and the secret he's kept all this time.

I wanted to love this book and I know I had high expectations f
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M
My god, that was sad. It's not really a romance, more a tale of frustrated desire wrapped up in an indictment of the First World War, and it's beautifully done. It's a very understated novel; Boyne manages to capture the horror and despair of the trenches very clearly and without trying too hard to be graphic or shocking. I felt great empathy towards his characters, despite (or maybe because of) their flaws. I'm not sure if 'enjoyed' is the right word to use, but I read it start to finish withou ...more
Mmars
During WWI approximately 6,000 men were conscientious objectors in England. An absolutist was one who refused to perform any service, including civilian, which would contribute to the war effort. Though sentenced by military court they served time in civilian prisons. This book concerns several who signed up, but refused to fight, making their soldiering even harsher than what we all know was already hell in the trenches.

The story is told by 21-year-old Tristan who is delivering letters to Mari
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Karla
Radio abridgment. Narrated by Blake Ritson.

3 stars for the book itself. It's pretty formulaic, and I could see the big secret coming a mile away.

4 for the narration. Ritson is one of the better voice actors around and he aced Tristan's morose self-loathing and vulnerability.

Until the last 30 minutes, I was contemplating that I might want to read the full book one day, but the predictable climax and the sputter and fizzle of the epilogue - as well as reading some of the critical reviews - made me
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Larry Hoffer
Tristan Sadler, newly 21, travels to Norwich from his London home to take care of an errand he is dreading. He has promised to deliver a sheaf of letters his friend Will Bancroft received while they fought together during World War I to Will's sister. And while this errand dredges up memories of the fighting and the deaths that Tristan would rather not remember, it also forces him to confront his feelings, his actions, and the direction the rest of his life is going to take.

Spending the day with
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John Boyne (born 30 April 1971 in Dublin) is an Irish novelist.

He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and studied Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, where he was awarded the Curtis Brown prize. But it was during his time at Trinity that he began to get published. To pay his way at that stage of his career, he worked at Waterstone's, typing up his drafts by night.

John Boyne is
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“I think i'm just breathing, that's all. And there's a difference between breathing and being alive.” 45 likes
“ I can't bear to be on a train without a book", she announced. " It's a form of self-defence in a way" .” 20 likes
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