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4.2 out of 5 stars
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4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 2 March 2017
Great idea for a story but I wished a good editor had been through it as it meanders in places. It's set in WW1 and the 20s and there's a bit where a women excuses herself and says she is going to the 'bathroom' while in a cafe which no one in those days would have said. There are a few other moments like that which completely break the spell so although i wanted to like it I just couldn't believe in it. Give it a try though and if you are less fussy than me you will probably enjoy it!
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on 5 May 2013
How could the author put so well war, hate, love, regrets, grudge and resignation in the same mix I do not know. Surely this book came as a totally unexpected surprise to me, as no review or plot summary or comment (as I did my best to avoid them and, thus, spoilers) had prepared me to such a story. If I was to chose a word, I would pick beautiful. Yes, it is a story beautifully written.

When it comes to topics like war and gay love it is really easy to screw the story up. In this case I did not feel that Boyne was trapped in his own mine camp. On the contrary I feel that he brilliantly managed to express what he wanted. Maybe what he wrote does not 100% reflect the way things actually went over there, as no book could ever describe what our granddads experienced and saw and felt in the battle camp, and yet somehow this novel manages to give us an idea on how those guys must have felt, the horrors they must have faced, the shock that came along and that stayed with them for the rest of their life. Many of us have seen all that on our granddads’ look.
In the middle of all that we find are Tristan and Will, two young guys not yet in their twenties, who enlist for the Great War and are trained together at Aldershot.

I’m sorry to say that I’ve hated both of them. I liked the story very much and I liked the way it was written, but the main characters were both equally unbearable to me.

Tristan sees Will on their very first day at Aldershot. Will notices Tristan more or less at the same time, but would not introduce himself. They later become close friends, until the day a dreadful murder of one of their comrades pushes Will to the borders of despair. Tristan is there to wash his tears away. Will falls for Tristan. Then Will changes his mind, ashamed, and keeps Tristan away. Tristan will be once more the one offering Will a shoulder to cry on, a few months later, and once more Will will use him for a brief moment and then will run away. Both cases Tristan will get out of it seriously hurt. Tristan loves Will unconditionally, but Will sees in Tristan nothing more than a trusted friend to rely on in his shitty days. This selfish attitude of Will will lead Tristan to take an extreme, desperate action that will put an end to their friendship, their life together and his own innocence.

It’s easy to understand why I hate Will – I bet most of the people who read this book do. I hate him from the moment Tristan begun to speak ill of him. That’s normal, that’s an emotional transfer. Weird enough, though, I started to hate Tristan just as well, as in order to justify his hate towards Will he showed a nasty snappy side of him we didn’t know before. It looked like he was continuously trying to justify himself and the reasons why he hated Will. Which is understandable, seen what Will had done to him, and yet the way all that is explained to us left me with the feeling that Tristan was almost as guilty as his once best mate. I understood that Will, as well as his sister, who Tristan meets years later, were right: Tristan is a coward. He could have had his revenge on Will so many times, not last the half a day they spent in the canteen together before the end of it all, but he preferred not to take any action. He left Will free to hurt him as if he wanted to show how 100% a victim he was.

I’m not sure if this was the reaction Boyne expected from his readers. It really doesn’t matter. One can love or hate the main characters of a story, as long as the story leaves them something, a trace, once it has come to an end.
As for me, this book certainly did.
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on 17 May 2017
Fascinating, the relationship that develops in one mind and devastating how it is unwound, leaving a logical aftermath but still unexpected.
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on 26 April 2017
I loved this book, beautifully written, has stayed with me even though I finished reading it some weeks ago.
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on 15 October 2016
I know nothing about trench-life in WW1, so I can't really comment on this novel's historical content. Nor did I have an issue with its use of modern slang which has been criticised here. However, I dislike this book because its story is plain nasty. Its characters are largely two-dimensional stereotypes, and apart from the main character, Tristan, they are deeply unpleasant. In fact, I'm not quite sure what the author's intention was with this book - Each man kills the thing he loves, possibly? Who knows? If you want to read a good man-love novel in times of war, I can heartily recommend The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. Now there's a book to break your heart!
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on 31 May 2012
Having read and loved 'The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas' a couple of years ago and being out of ideas for any new books to read, I walked in the book store a couple of weeks ago and decided to just grab a book by John Boyne. And to be honest, I have never been this happy with such an uninformed decision. Keep in mind though that this book shouldn't be compared to 'The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas'. They are both set during war, but the story is of another kind and it's told in a completely different way. But just like that earlier book, I barely managed to set it aside to attend to other matters.

The story is written in a style that is enjoyable: the story is told by the 21-year old protagonist, in such a way that you immediately feel a connection with him, even though it's mostly out of pity. There are four distinctive time lines in the book: when Tristan was a young adult; when he had just joined the army; shortly after the 1st World War; and the 'present'; scrambled within the book to obtain a story of perfect order.

The story itself is very intriguing, mostly because the main storyline deals with certain aspects that aren't regularly discussed when talking about war. I would love to elaborate on this, but it would most likely spoil the experience of reading the book yourself. And if that part of the plot isn't enough to keep you glued to this book, then you should know that writing about the 1st World War gives the author the opportunity to talk about certain details (the trainingcamps, life in the trenches,...) of that tragic occurrence, and he does this so skillfully and vivid, that it's hard not to feel very emotional while reading those passages. In short the story can best be described as a combination of Mystery, Drama and Romance.

To conclude, with this book John Boyne has shown me that he possesses a very broad writingskill. Wether you liked 'The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas' or not or you have never even heard of it, you should definitely read this book. It's a gripping tale, with an end that makes you unsure how to feel about it and makes you want to discuss it further.

I'll be sure to pick out a random 'John Boyne'-novel again next time I'm out of ideas for books to read!
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on 28 December 2015
rubbish book but decent condition
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on 6 August 2015
Found the storyline tedious, the dialogue boring and the outcome predictable. Not his best work, I'd say.
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This is in many ways a painful-to-read book that masterfully evokes the horrors and stupidity of WWI and, equally, the intolerance and stupidity of Edwardian Era morality that isolated and victimized women, non-conformists and gay people. The story opens in 1919, with British Army survivor of the French killing fields, Tristan Sadler, on his way to visit the sister of his dead army compatriot, soul mate and physical intimate, Will Bancroft. Bancroft's death is a tragedy that neither Sadler nor the deadman's family has yet recovered from.

The story moves back and forth between the 1919 meeting and the several previous years in the lives of the two men. While there have been hundreds of books that have described the awfulness of WWI trench warfare, "The Absolutist" tells the story as well as any that I've seen. It also brilliantly relates the mental wounding that protagonist Sadler has experienced before, during and after the conflict. In many ways, his confinement in the trenches is equaled by his social confinement in civilian life.

This is a moving story that effectively illuminates the injustices, as well as the momentous political mistakes, of the 20th Century. It deserves to be read and understood by a large audience in the hope that we can eliminate the remaining bigotries and paths to conflict that we face today.
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on 22 January 2016
Unrealistic: missed out the officers. Main protagonists probably wouldn't have been squaddies.
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