Monday, November 26, 2012

Review of "The Absolutist" by John Boyne - An Unblinking Look at World War I

John Boyne has reached back a century in time to capture the pathos of The Great War and how it impacted countless lives in Europe and the U.S.  "The Absolutist" is the story of a complicated relationship between two soldiers, one who was executed for his opposition to the senseless war, and another who both loved and betrayed him.  That second soldier, Tristan Sadler, at the end of the war travels to Norwich from London to confront the family of his fallen comrade, Will Bancroft.  His excuse for making the trip was to deliver letters to Will's sister that she had written to him on the battlefield.  He planned, if he had the courage, to also tell her the real story of how her brother died in France.

This novel is beautifully told, with masterstrokes of writing that contain passion, pathos, jealousy, heroism, and self-doubt.  The sense of frustration and despair by those in the trench along the Maginot Line is palpable.  As I read, I could feel the grittiness of the mud and feel the vermin crawling on the skin of the soldiers who were carrying out orders they little understood.  It is an unblinking look at war from the bottom of a literal trench as well as from the bottom of a psychological one.


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