John Boyne is best known for The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, a morality tale set in a concentration camp that was made into an award-winning film in 2008. Although that book was written for children, seven of his nine novels are for adults, including his newest, The Absolutist, published in 2012.
The Absolutist is also a morality tale, but most of its action takes place in a different kind of hell-hole of man’s devising—the trench warfare of World War I, where soldiers rotted and were maimed both physically and emotionally and died brutally and senselessly. The main characters are Tristan Sadler and Will Bancroft, English teenagers, who meet in boot camp in England and are sent to France as infantrymen to fight in the trenches. The book chronicles what happens to them physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Like most good books that deal with soldiers and war, The Absolutist is not a war story, but rather a study of and meditation on what war does to average people who are thrust into an inhuman and insane environment and how they cope to make sense of their situation, come to terms with it (if possible), and survive (if possible). The war setting serves as the backdrop to deal with issues of physical and moral bravery, moral cowardice, ethical dilemmas, self-deception, self-knowledge, and knowledge of others.
In just over 300 beautifully written pages the author concerns himself with some of the great human issues and poses questions as to what it means to be a fully functional human (in the best sense of the word) in an inhuman and insane world and also in the real (normal) world.
Check the WRL catalog for The Absolutist.