Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Book Review: "The Absolutist" by John Boyne

Tristan Sadler, newly 21, travels to Norwich from his London home to take care of an errand he is dreading. He has promised to deliver a sheaf of letters his friend Will Bancroft received while they fought together during World War I to Will's sister. And while this errand dredges up memories of the fighting and the deaths that Tristan would rather not remember, it also forces him to confront his feelings, his actions, and the direction the rest of his life is going to take.

Spending the day with Will's outspoken sister, Marian, as she deals with the frustration and sadness talking about her brother even three years after his death, serves as both a catharsis and a source of great pain and anxiety for Tristan. But in the end, he has the opportunity to unburden his soul of things he has kept hidden for the three years since Will's death, although doing so may not provide the relief he desperately needs.

To say that this book devastated me is an understatement. It is easily one of the most beautifully written, emotionally gripping books I've read this year, and perhaps in some time. John Boyne's storytelling in this book reminds me a little of E.M. Forster—Maurice in particular—and as the book moved toward a conclusion I feared, I couldn't tear myself away yet I didn't want the story to unfold and, ultimately, end. This is a book about relationships, betrayal, courage, and standing up for yourself and your beliefs. This is an almost poetic novel I won't soon forget, although definitely one that doesn't necessarily fill you with happiness and hope. Truly one of the best books I've read all year.

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