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robtwinem

runner

I live in Bristol UK literary fiction and crime are my books of choice and when not reading I like to run

Magnificent achievement

By John Boyne The Absolutist - John Boyne

The Absolutist is a conscientious objector, one who refuses not only to be involved in the dirty business of taking arms against an enemy but also to help in any way the war effort by carrying out ancillary tasks. They were nicknamed Feather men....  (The notion of a white feather representing cowardice goes back to the 18th century, arising from the belief that a white feather in the tail of a game bird denoted poor quality. To 'show the white feather' was therefore to be 'unmanly)Tristan Sadler and Will Bancroft two fresh faced recruits meet in Aldershot as they prepare for life in the trenches, the defining image of World War 1. "In Aldershot they weren't teaching us how to fight, they were training us how to extend our lives for as long as possible"......

 

John Boyne's writing is magnificent as always, his scenes of young raw recruits standing like lambs to the slaughter, or waiting to be butchered by the enemy's machine gunfire, is heartbreaking to read...."We forget that we have very nearly died today as we wait to die again tomorrow"......"Each of us fell at a different point on the spectrum from pacifism to unremitting sadism"...... At the start of the story Tristan is travelling to Norwich to meet Will's sister and deliver some personal letters, he is also hoping to unburden himself by revealing a secret, a secret that he has held within him for many years. The narrative alternates between the start and finish of WW1 and those who survived returned home deeply traumatized  to a country unable to cope with  or indeed understand the repercussions of shell shock more commonly known today as PTSD...."Twenty boys. And only two came back. One who went mad and myself. But that doesn't mean we survived it. I don't think I did survive it. I may not be buried in a French field but I linger there"........

 

The Absolutist is about friendship, unrequited love, the morals of the time, and what happens if we try to live outside what society views as righteous and good. It is about the evil and brutality that humans can inflict on each other and in its graphic descriptions it illustrates what life (if we can call it that) was like for young men in the trenches...most would be lucky to survive more than 6 weeks....." I close my eyes for a moment . How long will it be, I wonder, two minutes, three, before I am over the sandbags too? Is my life to end tonight?"In the last chapter we meet Tristan as an old man, success as a writer has done little to ease his conscience or dampen the memory of those bygone days. The final sentence is probably one of the most poignant I have read for many years. A truly outstanding novel John Boyne once again asserts himself as not only a gifted author but possessing an uncanny understanding of the human spirit and what is to live. to love, and for that love never to be returned. Highly, highly recommended