Summary and book reviews of The Absolutist by John Boyne

The Absolutist

A Novel

by John Boyne

The Absolutist by John Boyne X
The Absolutist by John Boyne
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Paperback:
    Jul 2012, 320 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Karen Rigby
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

The Absolutist is a masterful tale of passion, jealousy, heroism, and betrayal set in one of the most gruesome trenches of France during World War I. This novel will keep readers on the edge of their seats until its most extraordinary and unexpected conclusion, and will stay with them long after they've turned the last page.

It is September 1919: twenty-one-year-old Tristan Sadler takes a train from London to Norwich to deliver a package of letters to the sister of Will Bancroft, the man he fought alongside during the Great War.

But the letters are not the real reason for Tristan's visit. He can no longer keep a secret and has finally found the courage to unburden himself of it. As Tristan recounts the horrific details of what to him became a senseless war, he also speaks of his friendship with Will - from their first meeting on the training grounds at Aldershot to their farewell in the trenches of northern France. The intensity of their bond brought Tristan happiness and self-discovery as well as confusion and unbearable pain.

The Absolutist is a masterful tale of passion, jealousy, heroism, and betrayal set in one of the most gruesome trenches of France during World War I. This novel will keep readers on the edge of their seats until its most extraordinary and unexpected conclusion, and will stay with them long after they've turned the last page.

Paperback original

Excerpt
The Absolutist

I DON'T SPEAK TO Will Bancroft until our second day at Aldershot Military Barracks but I notice him on our first. We arrive in the late afternoon of the last day of April, some forty of us, a group of untidy boys, loud-mouthed and vulgar, stinking of sweat and bogus heroism. Those who already know each other sit together on the train, talking incessantly, afraid of silence, each voice competing to drown out the next. Those who are strangers hide in window seats, their heads pressed against the glass, feigning sleep or staring out as the scenery rushes past. Some make nervous conversation about the things they have left behind, their families, the sweethearts they will miss, but no one discusses the war. We might be on a day trip for all the nerves we dare show.

We stand around in groups as the train empties and I find myself next to a boy of about nineteen who glances around irritably, taking me in and dismissing me again with a single look. He ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. When Tristan first enters the Cantwell Inn, Mrs. Cantwell's son, David, presents the question of morality and describes the incident that happens in room four as "a personal indiscretion". Which characters does Boyne present as judges of morality in The Absolutist? How does Tristan's complete avoidance of their judgments define his character both negatively and positively?


  2. In solitary confinement, Will makes it clear to Tristan what he dislikes about him and what makes them different. Tristan's silent compliance with the injustice of the military system and his insistence that their intimate moments hold some greater meaning come to repulse Will. Yet when Will removes his blindfold, his reaction suggests a kind of heartbreak. How do...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

...[W]hile some readers may find the material unsympathetic, the author raises worthy questions, including the consequences of holding fast to unchangeable events. Boyne's rendering of Marian Bancroft... also helps invigorate the material. Conflicted, temperamental, charming, forgetful, loyal to her brother's memory, and unforgiving, she is complex where others seem defined by a handful of traits. Her story elevates the plot as Sadler must consider the effects of facing the family of someone he has harmed. Readers who are intrigued by the period and by the author's previous award-winning novel, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, will appreciate this latest exploration of psychological trauma on the Western Front.   (Reviewed by Karen Rigby).

Full Review (391 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

Media Reviews

The Bookseller
Powerful, poignant and beautifully written. This will become a classic war novel.

The Daily Beast
What is most memorable here is the timelessly doomed relationship between Tristan and Will, marked by tenderness and confusion and cruelty in the face of their own internalized repression, as British as it is of its time. This is a wonderfully crafted tragedy that will stay with the reader for days.

Publishers Weekly
A relentlessly tragic yet beautifully crafted novel.

Kirkus Reviews
Some of the key moments of the book - notably an encounter with a frightened German soldier - are very effective.

Library Journal
A thought-provoking and surprising page-turner that for some readers may recall Ian McEwan's Atonement.

Literary Review (UK)
[In] Boyne's fiction, there's a sense that people are fundamentally the sum of their traumas... Boyne's narrative grip is strong.

The Irish Times
Political, personal, powerful... a fiercely interrogative novel that asks not just what it means to be a man but also what it means to be a human being in the extreme circumstances of war.

Author Blurb Colum McCann
John Boyne brings a completely fresh eye to the most important stories. He is one of the great craftsmen in contemporary literature.

Author Blurb Colm Toibin
A wonderful, sad, tender book that is going to have an enormous impact on everyone who reads it.

Reader Reviews

katy lee

heartbreakingly sad
When I first started reading this book I didn't even know what it was about to be honest, but by pg 16 I knew I couldn't just put it down. The next two days I read it whenever I could. The relationship between Will and Tristan so sweet and will ...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Norwich, England

Norwich, England In John Boyne's The Absolutist, twenty-one-year-old Tristan Sadler takes a train from London to Norwich, England to deliver a package of letters to Will Bancroft's sister. Norwich, a city located along the River Wensum in eastern England, is the county seat of Norfolk and was once one of the largest, most populated towns in England, second only to London in prosperity.

Norfolk (literally meaning North people), shares the bulge on the east of England, known as East Anglia with it's southern neighbor - Suffolk (South people). The region is known as East Anglia after the Angles, a Germanic group who settled the area by the 5th century. The etymology of Norwich is essentially north-wich - wich being the Anglo-Saxon designation for a ...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

More books by John Boyne

If you liked The Absolutist, try these:

  • The Cartographer of No Man's Land jacket

    The Cartographer of No Man's Land

    by P.S. Duffy

    Published 2013

    About this book

    The Cartographer of No Man's Land offers a soulful portrayal of World War I and the lives that were forever changed by it, both on the battlefield and at home.

  • In Falling Snow jacket

    In Falling Snow

    by Mary-Rose MacColl

    Published 2013

    About this book

    A bestselling Australian writer's American debut and a heart-wrenching novel of World War I, painting a portrait of the changing role of women in medicine and the powerful legacy of love.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Kinship of Secrets
    The Kinship of Secrets
    by Eugenia Kim
    Of our 20 First Impressions readers who submitted reviews for The Kinship of Secrets, all rated it ...
  • Book Jacket: Empire of Sand
    Empire of Sand
    by Tasha Suri
    Tasha Suri's debut novel, Empire of Sand, reads like something out of 1001 Arabian Nights, both ...
  • Book Jacket: In Byron's Wake
    In Byron's Wake
    by Miranda Seymour
    It's tempting to think that our age of celebrity worship coupled with the 24-hour news cycle is ...
  • Book Jacket: The Latecomers
    The Latecomers
    by Helen Klein Ross
    The Latecomers is the third novel written by acclaimed author Helen Klein Ross, following What Was ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Becoming
by Michelle Obama

An intimate, powerful, and inspiring memoir by the former First Lady of the United States.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    House of Stone
    by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma

    A masterful debut, pulsing with dark humor, that explores the often destructive act of history-making.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win To Lay To Rest Our Ghosts

To Lay to Rest Our Ghosts

"Caitlin Hamilton Summie is our modern Chekhov."
- Savvy Verse & Wit

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

Everything I H-D

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.