Top positive review
A beautiful tale of war and love
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.