The Absolutist

Paperback | April 10, 2012

byJohn Boyne

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From the beloved John Boyne, a powerful, poignant novel about how we are to be good in the face of disaster.
 
September 1919: Twenty-year-old Tristan Sadler takes a train from London to Norwich to deliver some letters to Marian Bancroft. During the Great War, Tristan fought alongside Marian's brother Will who, in 1917, laid down his gun on the battlefield, declared himself a conscientious objector and was shot as a traitor, an act which brought shame and dishonour on the Bancroft family. But the letters are not the real reason for Tristan's visit. He holds a secret deep in his soul. One that he is desperate to unburden himself of to Marian, if he can only find the courage.
 
As they stroll through the streets of a city still coming to terms with the end of the war, he recalls his friendship with Will, from the training ground at Aldershot to the trenches of Northern France, and speaks of how the intensity of their friendship brought him from brief moments of happiness and self-discovery to long periods of despair and pain.

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From the Publisher

From the beloved John Boyne, a powerful, poignant novel about how we are to be good in the face of disaster. September 1919: Twenty-year-old Tristan Sadler takes a train from London to Norwich to deliver some letters to Marian Bancroft. During the Great War, Tristan fought alongside Marian's brother Will who, in 1917, laid down his gun...

JOHN BOYNE was born in Ireland in 1971 and is the author of seven novels. The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas has sold over 5 million copies worldwide and won two Irish Book Awards. It was also shortlisted for the British Book Award and has recently been made into a Miramax feature film. Boyne's novels are published in over 40 languages. He...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:320 pages, 8.17 × 5.68 × 0.85 inPublished:April 10, 2012Publisher:Doubleday CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0385668708

ISBN - 13:9780385668705

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Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Powerful storytelling Yes, another book about WWI’s trenches. I’m intrigued by that horrific time. Boyne writes of Tristan Sadler’s journey in 1919 to deliver a bundle of letters to the sister of his friend, Will Bancroft. But what Tristan really wants is to tell her the truth about what happened. And so ensues a compelling story about terror, homosexuality, jealousy, and guilt.
Date published: 2014-11-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Story This story is about Tristan Sadler, a young veteran of World War 1 who is dealing with intense shame and guilt, a consequence of his involvement in the war. Told in the first person narrative by the main character, Tristan recounts how he and his best friend, Will Bancroft, faced an intense personal dilemma, some emotions had to kept secret and never displayed or shared with others. It took a huge amount of courage to fight their internal feelings and the war they were waging on the battle field that faced them. The story opens in September 1919 with twenty one year old Tristan Sadler on a train from London to Norwich to deliver a package of letters to Marian, Will Bancroft’s sister. The story unfolds slowly and moves between the war and his visit with Marian. She slowly finds out the truth about her brother and what really happened to him. Tristan and Will had meet during basic training at Aldershot and they soon developed a close relationship that lasted till they served in the trenches of Picardy where Will was court-martialed for cowardice and executed on the battlefield in 1916. Mr. Boyne prose concentrates on emotions throughout this wartime story which depicts primarily the relationship between the two soldiers. The brutal and very descriptive war scenes in general are told in the present tense and the narrative shifts to the past tense when Tristan reveals his true feelings to Marian. This skillfully crafted and very thought provoking story builds tension and emotions till its bitter conclusion and the result is a very moving story that looks at war from a different perspective.
Date published: 2013-01-03

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Read from the Book

Seated Opposite Me in the railway carriage, the elderly lady in the fox-fur shawl was recalling some of the murders that she had committed over the years. ‘There was the vicar in Leeds,’ she said, smiling a little as she tapped her lower lip with her index finger. ‘And the spinster from Hartlepool whose tragic secret was to prove her undoing. The actress from London, of course, who took up with her sister’s husband just after his return from the Crimea. She was a flighty piece so no one could blame me for that. But the maid-of-all-work in Connaught Square, I rather regretted killing her. She was a hard-working girl of good Northern stock, who perhaps didn’t deserve such a brutal ending.’ ‘That was one of my favourites,’ I replied. ‘If you ask me, she got what was coming to her. She read letters that were not hers to read.’ ‘I know you, don’t I?’ she asked, sitting forward now, narrowing her eyes as she examined my face for familiar signs. A sharp combination of lavender and face cream, her mouth viscous with blood-red lipstick. ‘I’ve seen you somewhere before.’ ‘I work for Mr Pynton at the Whisby Press,’ I told her. ‘My name’s Tristan Sadler. We met at a literary lunch a few months ago.’ I extended my hand and she stared at it for a moment, as if unsure what was expected of her, before shaking it carefully, her fingers never quite closing on my own. ‘You gave a talk on untraceable poisons,’ I added. ‘Yes, I remember it now,’ she said, nodding quickly. ‘You had five books that wanted signing. I was struck by your enthusiasm.’ I smiled, flattered that she recalled me at all. ‘I’m a great admirer,’ I said, and she inclined her head graciously, a movement that must have been honed over thirty years of receiving praise from her readers. ‘As is Mr Pynton. He’s talked several times about trying to lure you over to our house.’ ‘Yes, I know Pynton,’ she replied with a shudder. ‘Vile little man. Terrible halitosis. I wonder that you can bear to be near him. I can see why he employed you, though.’ I raised an eyebrow, confused, and she offered me a half-smile. ‘Pynton likes to be surrounded by beautiful things,’ she explained. ‘You must have seen it in his taste for artwork and those ornate couches that look as though they belong in the Paris atelier of some fashion designer. You remind me of his last assistant, the scandalous one. But no, there’s no chance, I’m afraid. I’ve been with my publisher for over thirty years and I’m perfectly happy where I am.’ She sat back, her expression turning to ice, and I knew that I had disgraced myself, turning what had been a pleasant exchange into a potential business transaction. I looked out of the window, embarrassed. Glancing at my watch, I saw that we were running about an hour later than planned and now the train had stopped again without explanation. ‘This is exactly why I never go up to town any more,’ she declared abruptly as she struggled to open the window, for the carriage had begun to grow stuffy. ‘You simply cannot rely on the railways to bring you home again.’ ‘Here, let me help you with that, missus,’ said the young man who had been sitting next to her, speaking in whispered, flirtatious tones to the girl next to me since we departed Liverpool Street. He stood and leaned forward, a breeze of perspiration, and gave the window a hefty pull. It opened with a jolt, allowing a rush of warm air and engine-steam to spill inside. ‘My Bill’s a dab hand with machinery,’ said the young woman, giggling with pride. ‘Leave it out, Margie,’ he said, smiling only a little as he sat down. ‘He fixed engines during the war, didn’t you, Bill?’ ‘I said leave it out, Margie,’ he repeated, colder now, and as he caught my eye we considered each other for a moment before looking away. ‘It was just a window, dear,’ sniffed the lady-novelist with impeccable timing. It struck me how it had taken over an hour for our three parties even to acknowledge each other’s presence. It reminded me of the story of the two Englishmen, left alone on a deserted island together for five years after a shipwreck, who never exchanged a single word of conversation as they had never been properly introduced. Twenty minutes later, our train shifted into motion and we were on our way, finally arriving in Norwich more than an hour and a half behind schedule. The young couple dis - embarked first, a flurry of hysterical impatience and rush-me-to-our-room giggles, and I helped the writer with her suitcase. ‘You’re very kind,’ she remarked in a distracted fashion as she scanned the platform. ‘My driver should be here somewhere to help me the rest of the way.’ ‘It was a pleasure to meet you,’ I said, not trying for another handshake but offering an awkward nod of the head instead, as if she were the Queen and I a loyal subject. ‘I hope I didn’t embarrass you earlier. I only meant that Mr Pynton wishes we had writers of your calibre on our list.’ She smiled at this – I am relevant, said her expression, I matter – and then she was gone, uniformed driver in tow. But I remained where I was, surrounded by people rushing to and from their platforms, lost within their number, quite alone in the busy railway station. I emerged from the great stone walls of Thorpe Station into an unexpectedly bright afternoon, and found that the street where my lodgings were located, Recorder Road, was only a short walk away. Upon arriving, however, I was disappointed to find that my room was not quite ready. ‘Oh dear,’ said the landlady, a thin woman with a pale, scratchy complexion. She was trembling, I noticed, although it was not cold, and wringing her hands nervously. She was tall, too. The type of woman who stands out in a crowd for her unexpected stature. ‘I’m afraid we owe you an apology, Mr Sadler. We’ve been at sixes and sevens all day. I don’t quite know how to explain what’s happened.’ ‘I did write, Mrs Cantwell,’ I said, trying to soften the note of irritation that was creeping into my tone. ‘I said I would be here shortly after five. And it’s gone six now.’ I nodded in the direction of the grandfather clock that stood in the corner behind her desk. ‘I don’t mean to be awkward, but—’ ‘You’re not being awkward at all, sir,’ she replied quickly. ‘The room should have been ready for you hours ago, only . . .’ She trailed off and her forehead wrinkled into a series of deep grooves as she bit her lip and turned away; she seemed unable to look me in the eye. ‘We had a bit of unpleasantness this morning, Mr Sadler, that’s the truth of it. In your room. Or what was to be your room, that is. You probably won’t want it now. I know I shouldn’t. I don’t know what I’ll do with it, honestly I don’t. It’s not as if I can afford to leave it unlet.’ Her agitation was obvious, and despite my mind being more or less focused on my plans for the following day, I was concerned for her and was about to ask whether there was anything I could do to help when a door opened behind her and she spun around. A boy of about seventeen appeared, whom I took to be her son: he had a look of her around the eyes and mouth, although his complexion was worse, scarred as he was by the acne of his age. He stopped short, taking me in for a moment, before turning to his mother in frustration. ‘I told you to call me when the gentleman arrived, didn’t I?’ he said, glaring at her. ‘But he’s only just arrived this minute, David,’ she protested. ‘It’s true,’ I said, feeling a curious urge to jump to her defence. ‘I did.’ ‘But you didn’t call me,’ he insisted to his mother. ‘What have you told him, anyway?’ ‘I haven’t told him anything yet,’ she said, turning back to me with an expression that suggested she might cry if she was bullied any longer. ‘I didn’t know what to say.’ ‘I do apologize, Mr Sadler,’ he said, turning to me now with a complicit smile, as if to imply that he and I were of a type who understood that nothing would go right in the world if we did not take it out of the hands of women and look after it ourselves. ‘I had hoped to be here to greet you myself. I asked Ma to tell me the moment you arrived. We expected you earlier, I think.’

Editorial Reviews

LONGLISTED - 2013 International IMPAC Dublin Literary AwardAn Amazon.com Best 100 Book of 2012Winner of the Stonewall Honor (Literature)"A novel of immeasurable sadness, in a league with Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair. John Boyne is very, very good at portraying the destructive power of a painfully kept secret. This is a forbidden love story—a gay love story—but one with a terrible twist." —John Irving"A wonderful, sad, tender book. There are some amazing things about this novel--one is the simplicity and purity of the narrative line; another is the sort of complexity within the characters and the emotions and the motives; another is the sense of the period, with all its restrictions. The book is going to have an enormous impact on everyone who reads it." —Colm Toibin "This will become a classic war novel." —The Bookseller“Let me try to explain how much I loved The Absolutist. I loved it for its grainy black-and-white-movie feel, like an old British film from the ’40s. I loved that author John Boyne teased out just enough information throughout this book to make me think I’d figured out what had happened to Tristan and Will (I didn’t!). I loved the mixture of horrific brutality and insanely beautiful prose. And I loved the ending, which made me gasp, gasp—and gasp again.” —Inland Empire Weekly“The Absolutist is effortlessly readable and meticulously attuned to its social and linguistic time frame.” —Irish Times