THE ABSOLUTIST stuns with story and style
My John Boyne summer continued with a dive into World War I, where there is so much more than love that dares. I was touched by the heartbreak of the classic Boyne hero who loves from afar – a love we know he can never claim, will never be allowed to claim. The details is Boyne’s novels are so well etched and so well stitched into a seamless whole that the pages fly by along with the years in the text.
This time our hero is Tristan, a young man thrown from his house by his father saying ‘it would be best for all of us if the Germans shot you dead on sight.’ A foolish deed at school has him lying about his age to get into the army and is the youngest of the 20 men training with him at Aldershot. This group of 20 range from cruel to kind and portend what is to come in the madness of war. His attraction to a newfound friend Will who is curious, charming, socially adventurous and handsome will be eternal
The scenes from the trenches are so strong - as if Boyne pointed a Go-Pro camera back in time to capture all the mud and blood that bogs down the living and embraces the dead.
That Tristan survives is known through a parallel story in which he is to deliver Will's sister war-time letters sent to Will, now years after the victory has been proclaimed. And while the world cheers, no civilians or military men remain unscathed.
This material cries out for the treatment Sam Mendes brought to 1917, a work with much less depth and detail, despite its technical panache.
As I start to understand the lovers in Boyne, Will and Tristan will hold a special place in my heart.
From Wikipedia: John Boyne (left) was born in Dublin, where he still lives to this day. His first short story was published by the Sunday Tribune and in 1993 was shortlisted for a Hennessy Literary Award. A graduate of Trinity College Dublin (BA) and the University of East Anglia (MA), in 2015 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of East Anglia. He chaired the jury for the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize.
Boyne has spoken about the difficulties he encountered growing up gay in Catholic Ireland.