Susie's Reviews > The Absolutist

The Absolutist by John Boyne
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's review
Aug 01, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: indie-press, insatiable-booksluts-reviewed
Read in August, 2012

I gave this novel 3.25/5 stars at A digital ARC was provided through NetGalley.

Review excerpt:

"Oh, The Absolutist–as much as I wanted to love it, I came away from this book with a feeling of “meh.” The whole book wasn’t “meh,” though, and that’s what I found interesting (and frustrating) about it. The very beginning sucked me in, then lost me, then sucked me back in. I liked the writing. The characters intrigued me and I thought they were well-written. (One character in particular fascinated me–he went from a character I loved to a character I loved to hate.) The opening scene shows us Tristan Sadler, our protagonist, embarrassing himself in front of an Important Novelist on a train. I like a protagonist who has weaknesses to sink my teeth into. I was set to enjoy this book.

As I read, though, little things perturbed me. Boyne presents the story as a mystery, meting out revelation slowly (perhaps not slowly enough); we find out early on, for example, that Tristan’s father disowned him, but we’re not told why. The main problem I had was that Tristan has a habit of “noticing” and suddenly “remembering” things to draw your attention to them. If you’ve read my previous reviews, you already know my grief with this; having the narrator point out bits to the reader as foreshadowing, calling them “suspicious” or telling the reader that the narrator “might have/should have thought more” of an event or a person puts a big neon arrow in the story: “LOOK! LOOK AT THIS! SOMETHING IS HAPPENING HERE! Don’t miss it!” I don’t like having things pointed out to me; I’m smart enough to figure things out without a guide, but more, I don’t want to figure them out. I want just enough of a taste that I realize after the fact that I’ve been set up, but not nearly enough that I know I’m being set up as it happens."

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