Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Absolutist” as Want to Read:
The Absolutist
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Read Excerpt* *Different edition

The Absolutist

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  10,903 ratings  ·  1,574 reviews
September 1919: Twenty-year-old Tristan Sadler takes a train from London to Norwich to deliver a clutch of letters to Marian Bancroft. Tristan fought alongside Marian's brother Will during the Great War. They trained together. They fought together.

But in 1917, Will laid down his guns on the battlefield and declared himself a conscientious objector, an act which brought sha
...more
Paperback, 427 pages
Published July 5th 2012 by Black Swan (first published May 12th 2011)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Absolutist, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Cynthia (Bingeing On Books)
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
4.04  · 
Rating details
 ·  10,903 ratings  ·  1,574 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Elyse Walters
Jul 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Phenomenal!!!!! The nitty-gritty-reality..of what frickin war can can do - and not do--
oh how I LOVE JOHN BOYNE!!! My God... I had NO IDEA what I would discover when I started reading this AMAZING NOVEL...storytelling that is sooooo good!!!-- - so much I wish to say. I'm completely SPENT....EVERY EMOTION triggered!!!! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!!!
jessica
May 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
okay. its official. after two back-to-back 5 star books, john boyne has now made himself right at home on my favourite authors list.

i am OBSESSED with the way JB characters narrate their stories. the sincerity and certain approachability they radiate allows the reader to devour and savour their words with such ease. i dont think i have ever read anything quite like it.

with ‘the absolutist,’ in particular, empathising and feeling for tristan seems second nature. stories of war make me emotional
...more
Kevin Ansbro
"It would be best for all of us if the Germans shoot you dead on sight."
—Tristan Sadler’s father.

God, I appreciate you, John Boyne; with your head as smooth as a baby's bottom, your sparkling pixie eyes and your creative bloody genius. You were my go-to author when I hit a run of lamentable reads and you didn't let me down, you wonderful man.

The story begins in 1919, post-WWI England, in my own city of Norwich (I don't actually own it, I just live here). Tristan Sadler is the custodian of lett
...more
Larry H
Jul 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite-books
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
...more
B the BookAddict
Aug 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hist-fiction
In his usual understated and deft manner, John Boyne has written a WWI story that is very different from all the others in this genre.

Two young men, Sadler and Bancroft, train in the army together in England and are dispatched to the fields of Flanders in the same squad. They share a secret and taboo friendship that must remain hidden. But then a shocking case of barbarity by one of their squad finds the two friends on opposing sides of belief. One will find himself with an unthinkable task. One
...more
Marialyce
Jul 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: august-2012
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
...more
Dem
Jun 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Felicia
Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"...there's a difference between breathing and being alive."

I've been working my way through all of Boyne's books, and each time I start a new one I think to myself that there is no way this one can top the previous one. And each and every time, not only have I found myself mistaken, I am left astonished by his blinding literary brilliance.
There is no way to rate his books in order of best to worst.
There simply is no worst.
There isn't even a mediocre.

This story has left me shattered.
Andrew Smith
Feb 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As the story opens we meet Tristan Sadler. The year is 1919 and he’s travelling to Norwich to look up the sister of a friend who was killed in the First World War. He’s very nervous about meeting her, that much is clear, but there is less evidence – yet – as to the reason for his obvious trepidation. All will be come clear, but not for some time. We start to learn of Tristan’s friendship with Will Bancroft in episodes that alternate with more detail of his stay in Norwich. It seems that they met ...more
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.

Phrynne
Apr 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5000-books
My third book by this author and each one has been so beautifully written. The kind of books you walk around with in your head for days after finishing them.

The Absolutist tells of the horrors of war and through Tristan, the main character, we learn how difficult it was to live as a homosexual in 1916. His relationship with Will, who is struggling with his beliefs and values in every area of his life, is tumultuous and ends in disaster.

And then after all the drama and death life just goes on. I
...more
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
☮Karen
4.5 stars

There isn't a lot I can say about this beautiful book that hasn't already been said. A WW1 setting, a 17 yr old homosexual, Tristan, who joined up because his parents no longer wanted him in their lives, and from there the real drama begins as he falls for his bunkmate. Told in flashbacks a few years later, Tristan meets with his buddy's sister to discuss the truth about what happened, what happens, during wartime. What is said can apply to every war, as there are always going to be men
...more
Darlene
Nov 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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, which although seems controversial from reviewers' points of view, was one 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 ...more
Carol
May 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  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
...more
Ryan
Aug 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Rob
Jul 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This is a beautifully written, poignant love story. But not a love story in any conventional sense. A love so strongly felt by one and so strongly denied by the other.
The young couple involved are Tristan Sadler and Will Bancroft. Two young men who join up to fight in the trenches of France during WW1.
Out of the 20, or so, young men who train together for war only Tristan comes home. Tristan comes home whole in body but not mind, he carries a secret that will haunt him until his death.
The story
...more
Chrissie
Jul 01, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chrissie by: Sandy
The author draws the First World War’s trench warfare with a deft hand. We are in the trenches of Picardy, France.

The second theme is the taint of homosexuality as viewed by people of this time. Here the setting is Chiswick and Norwich, England.

The third theme is opposition to the war – pacifism versus staunch patriotism. To be labeled as a featherman, conscientious objector or absolutists was to be scorned by all. Absolutists were those who would in no way involve themselves with war, not eve
...more
Miles
Jun 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews
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
...more
Rachel
The Absolutist is a tender and harrowing exploration of love, betrayal, bravery, and cowardice, set in the trenches in France during World War I. The story begins in 1919, with twenty-one-year-old Tristan Sadler making a trip to Norwich to deliver some letters to the sister of a man who had died in the war, Will Bancroft. Through a series of flashbacks, Boyne explores the relationship between Tristan and Will, and while it's clear from the beginning that there isn't going to be a happy ending, i ...more
Cheeky Cher
Oct 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
4 stars - It was great. I loved it.

John Boyne is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. I found this novel to be evocative and thought-provoking. And while it is certainly a despondent read as well, never so much so that the reader hesitates to pick it back up. I found myself thinking of the characters while not reading it - always a great sign.

Coincidentally, it was a very fitting selection for a Memorial Day weekend. God bless our soldiers across the world, but especially those souls t
...more
Dianne
Aug 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-of-2015
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?"
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
Susan
Sep 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, favorites
The Absolutist is a beautifully written heart wrenching story set in the midst of World War 1. The story is Tristan Sandler's, a boy who at 17 1/2 years old lies about his age to enlist in the army to fight Germany and who's life is altered forever by his experiences. Tristan meets Will Bancroft in bootcamp and their relationship becomes Tristan's anchor and his torment throughout his time fighting in trenches in France. After the war and some years later, Tristan meets Will's sister and has the ...more
Cynthia
Jun 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Chris
Feb 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
John Boyne surprises us once again with a totally different time period and setting from his other books; this one being focused around WWI, the Great War. From the training camp in Aldershot to the bloodied trenches in northern France.

It starts with Tristan, taking a train, arranging to meet his friend Will Bancroft’s sister, with a packet of letters. Private communication between brother and sister during their training and war. Tristan wants to meet the sister of the man he loved and eventua
...more
Carol
Jul 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-audible
Tristan is a man haunted by memories of past events and his actions while serving in WWI. The reason for his guilt and despair is gradually revealed as he meets with the sister of Will, his closest friend during the war. Neither of the men was presented as just black and white. They both were complex, courageous and sometimes cowardly but in very different ways. This novel conveys the consequences of those actions and as such was heartbreaking…emotionally wrenching for me. Will was deeply confli ...more
❄️Nani❄️
John Boyne this is the 9th time you’ve done this to me.
Have mercy!
Optimist ♰King's Wench♰
absolutist

A person who holds absolute principles in political, philosophical, or theological matters.


Boyne's books continue to make me pensive. I've thought about this one since I finished it, so I guess that speaks to how much it affected me. It was by far the most difficult emotionally. I struggled to finish it and more than once contemplated quitting it.

But something always ALWAYS happened that make me push through. I had to know how it ended even though I knew it would more than likely be aw
...more
Patrice Hoffman
Aug 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Nook books: June 28, 2019 1 2 Jun 28, 2019 07:09PM  
Did Will ever have feelings for Tristan? 6 166 Nov 22, 2016 09:22AM  
Love 9 122 Jul 28, 2016 10:30PM  
Free Books, .99, ...: Giveaway of John Boyne's The Absolutist! 2 89 Nov 05, 2012 02:04AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Celestial
  • The Boy I Love (The Boy I Love Trilogy, #1)
  • Jack Holmes and His Friend
  • London Triptych
  • Counterpoint: Dylan's Story
  • Strange Meeting
  • Now and Then
  • The Lonely War
  • The Carnivorous Lamb
  • The Place where they Cried
  • My Dear I Wanted to Tell You (My Dear I Wanted to Tell You #1)
  • Mere Mortals
  • As Meat Loves Salt
  • The Catch Trap
  • The Story of the Night
  • Allegiance: A Dublin Novella
  • The First of July
  • While England Sleeps
See similar books…
6,176 followers
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 won the Curtis Brown prize. In 2015, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters by UEA.

John Boyne is the author of ten novels for adults and five for young readers, as well as a collection of short stories.

His novel
...more
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“I think i'm just breathing, that's all. And there's a difference between breathing and being alive.” 66 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" .” 28 likes
More quotes…