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The Absolutist by John Boyne
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really liked it

Disturbing, tragic, and so very sad — this novel from John Boyne recounts the emotional story of two World War I soldiers, who are unable to handle the deep and intimate connection they find in each other.

It begins after the war has ended. Tristen Sadler is nervous, on his way to meet Marion Bancroft, his late friend’s sister, in order to return to her the letters she wrote her brother during the war. From the start, it’s an awkward encounter. She is grieving, at odds with her parents, and struggling to adjust to the new norm of post-war England. Sadler struggles to remain patient — in part, because he too is uncomfortable, unsure about whether to share important but difficult information about her brother’s death.

During the few hours they spend together, flashbacks fill in the story of Tristen’s evolving friendship with Will Bancroft — from their first meeting at the start of basic training, to their deployment to the trenches of France, and eventually, to the moral and ethical conflicts at the heart of both their relationship and the war itself.

It’s an intelligent book, and oh so beautiful in the way it’s written. Boyne exposures the very souls of these two young men, still just teenagers, who rush to war looking for glory and excitement, and instead find unimaginable horrors and powerful emotions neither is mature enough to handle. Yet, the consequences of their actions linger forever.

This is not an easy book to read. Or even what I would describe as a pleasant experience. But unlike many other books I’ve read about World War I (and there have been quite a few) this one takes an unique approach and manages to genuinely shed light on the impact war has on those who fight in it.

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Reading Progress

January 12, 2019 – Shelved
January 12, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
May 30, 2019 – Started Reading
June 2, 2019 – Finished Reading

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