I never fail to lose myself in a book by Boyne. This one delves into the horrific impact the Great War had on the young men of the time, not to mention their families and friends. Not only do we receive a gut wrenching insight into the shocking conditions they endured, but also how difficult it was for someone coming to terms with their sexuality in an era where homosexuality was illegal. The book also explores the definition of cowardice in all its forms. So many young men were shot for cowardice during that time and the shame of that stained a family beyond belief. The PTSD suffered by young men and women returning from the war must have been horrendous and there was no support for them or their families. We may have 'won' the war but for so many, theirs continued.
The anecdote in John Boyne's The Absolutist about the two Englishmen cast away alone on a desert island who don't speak to each other for years because they haven't been properly introduced seemed to perfectly epitomize the novel. In fact, the word "absolutist" as a noun (which I believe had not crossed my path in the last seven decades) when its meaning is finally revealed in the book, quite nicely summarizes what I found to be the heartbreakingly true core of Boyne's story: a rigid, stiff-upper-lipped, adherence to moral and social codes often results in tragic outcomes. In the end, the novel is that rare actual tragedy in fiction where a confused and all too human being in the service of King and Country suffers an ignominious end, becomes a scapegoat doomed by its own intractability and cowardice, a warning to others that the road to ruin is often paved with rules designed by oneself as well as those imposed by others. This is a page-turner in terms of readability (even though the twitchy finger of the "hero" pretty well gives away the big reveal.) It is also, IMO, a pretty special and much more convincing sermon than Boyne's pyjama-clad fable.
Interest in WWI, but no great interest in issues of gay lit - so good thing I didn't pick up on this with synopsis. What snagged my interest was Norwich, the city itself, having spent a week walking the city myself & recognizing various features . I felt it was helpful in understanding what transpired, not just with the war itself, but with the primary issue of gay soldiers. I knew conscientious objectors were so horribly treated just not to this extent & the loathing of them. It didn't go into detailed account, but how one human loves another regardless of gender. The labeling of 'gay soldier' seems unfair to me - just tell the historical aspects without that tag, which puts off many possible readers. The audio version was so awful I switched to print. I did object to use of terms like teenager, item & others that don't fit with the era.
What a book!!! Great story - hard to put down. I loved his first book "the boy in the striped pajamas" and this held my attention just as well. I hope he continues to write - my favorite author.
This novel is almost on a par with Pat Barkers *Regeneration.* The author peoples the cast of characters with a conscientious objector, regular army, and gay men, and the dual timeline explores both the war years and the ramifications thereof. Recommended.
If you rate a read by the degree you ponder its contents - whether characters, plot or language - then this deserves my 5 star rating. The story is as intriguing as it is gut-wrenching, and the issues it raises will linger long on your mind.
It was an interesting read. I've not read any of Boyne's books before nor has this compelled me to explore his writing further. It was well written and I liked it. The writing is clear and does not drag. I found it to evoke a range of emotions as I read.
At best, the author, John Boyne, has given us a sappy melodrama. Even worse, though, while seemingly sympathetic to his gay protagonist, Boyne's deeply flawed novel can be easily interpeted as a homophobic tract.
Poor writing. Too much talking, not enough interesting going on, and the characters didn't feel like real people.
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