by John Boyne
There is nothing like a well-written and compelling novel, and I have found another in The Absolutist by John Boyne. The book is set in the time of World War I in Europe. At age seventeen, Tristan Sandler decides to enter the war as an escape from his current situation, estranged from his family after being sent away for a ‘vile’ act (as defined for the time period): kissing his best friend, a male. While in basic training, Tristan meets Will Bancroft, an eighteen-year-old, from another part of England and the son of a vicar. While in training, the two young men develop a friendship that leads to something more – a physical connection and emotional connection. The training leads to the battlefield where both men are challenged to survive and stay true to their values. When Will captures a youthful German soldier in their area, things turn upside-down as his peer soldier kills him. Will is enraged and felt the German youth should have become a prisoner of war. Will decides to no longer fight in the war and looks to Tristan to support his claim to higher ranking officers. The outcome pits the two friends against each other and leads to a surprising ending. The book captures issues related to following your conscience, risk-taking, and the issue of homosexual relations during a time when men would be killed if they identified as gay. The book follows the various points of struggle for Tristan from youth to being an eighty-year-old prize-winning author. The author does an outstanding job of bringing the reader on a journey of life with a character who can never shake the decisions he makes in life. Beautifully written and what a novel should be like. Great read!