Title: Absolutist, The
Authors: Boyne, John
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 309
Year: 2011
Publisher: Random House
Language: English
Description: Subject to the horrors of the Great War, Will Bancroft declares himself an 'absolutist', a conscientious objector who will do nothing for the war effort, a declaration with an inevitable outcome. Narrated by his gay friend Tristan Sadler, this is a gruelling story of the battlefield, two young men on the cusp of adulthood and the condemnation they face in a society requiring conformity from its young soldiers.

A tragic and tense story of courage, friendship and loyalty played out in the trenches of Northern France. [Larger font]

Comments from Groups:

Everyone enjoyed the spare writing style and the different approach to the war story and the many themes-loyalty, love, homosexuality and the issues around conscientious objecting. Feilding 001

It was very interesting to discuss this book...before ANZAC Day, when members of our group have several connections and interest in WW1 and also in the Falklands War,... it made the whole topic so much more relevant. Pukekohe 001

We all enjoyed this book, although found the subject material challenging in parts. Good discussion. Palmerston North 031

This book made a big impression on all members and led to a very good discussion. We are all keen to read more by John Boyne. Taumarunui 003

Almost all found this book a compelling read, and very thought-provoking in a number of ways and on a number of themes as follows. Attitudes to homosexuality and the way these affected individuals and families. Some discussion on our attitudes now, even though there is more acceptance of it. 'Absolutist' was a new term for most. Is it courage or cowardice to believe in pacifism? Power and control - Tristan's father cutting him off with no mention of the mother's feelings; Will's father very much a dominant and controlling figure - over both Will and his sister. Most found the writing good and the description in the trenches graphic and really affecting. Interestingly, one member did not like the writing, feeling that conversations were wooden and unrealistic. Overall it was considered a challenging and thought-provoking read. Auckland 015

Most of us found the book rather uninspiring - 2 didn't finish it. Interesting subject matter, but most of us could see the 'revelation' coming fairly early on, and found the characterisation a bit thin... Wellington 046

Much discussion - issues re war, conscientious objectors, homosexuality, betrayal, jealousy, trench warfare, present world war scenarios, principles, family histories etc - all from one book. Colm Toibin summation on the cover so very true. I am pleased I read it, but can't say I enjoyed it! Nelson 062

'The Absolutist' was written in an 'easy to read' style, and the Group as a whole enjoyed it. Discussion was lively which was to be expected, as we had two different themes to consider: the pointless wartime experiences in WW1 and the difficulty of living in a world that believed that homosexuality was evil. There was a huge diversity of opinions as we presented our points of view and it was good to know that we were, and still are, good friends in our Group! Palmerston North 002

This well written book, despite its subject of the gruelling days of WW1 and the following 50 years, was compelling reading. The discussion was thought-provoking, as we considered the complex lives of the immature young men, their courage and friendships. Christchurch 043

Categories: Fiction, War theme, Gender Issues, Grief/loss, Morals/Ethics, Relationships, England, Larger font


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By: AUCK 063 2021-12-10 08:54:21
Not all read this, but those who did found it a challenging but fascinating examination of the historical attitudes to war and to homosexuality. A clumsy beginning from this popular author, but we were quite quickly drawn into the credible portrayals of human nature. Great discussion themes.

By: AUCK 008 2021-10-14 14:40:37
A sad but worthwhile read.

By: WANAK 010 2021-07-12 10:04:21
Just over half of our group finished the book. Some started but found it just too sad especially those who had family members who fought in WW1 and talked about their experiences. We all felt the book was extremely well written and very believable. One of our members had recently started transcribing her grandfather’s diary from 1918 and shared some extracts that mirrored some of the descriptions in the book. Discussion centred on the cruelty of war, the long term effects on those who survived, the changing role of women, along with society’s attitudes towards people who differ from the norm.

By: DANNE 002 2020-10-05 11:48:10
Those of us who read the book thought it had been the best book we had read so far this year. Some thought the ending was just too sad.

By: AUCK 025 2020-10-05 11:46:44
Our group enjoyed this book. The characters were well drawn, and we agreed with John Boyne's stated objective of making characters believable rather than likeable. We enjoyed the concepts, and the way they were presented in the book.

By: NAP 023 2020-10-05 11:31:11
The general agreement was that the book brought home to us the bigotry and cruelty of war, particularly the trench war of WWI. The characterisations were outstanding, and the descriptions harrowing. Highly recommended.

By: DUNED 029 2020-10-05 11:25:13
A powerful book. A complex book. A brilliant depiction of the life of young soldiers in WWI. The issues of homosexuality and pacificism are handled with great skill.

By: WELL 123 2020-10-05 11:23:11
A mixed reception - some felt the characters were inconsistent and the theme irrelevant today. Others regarded the book as a timely reminder of man's inhumanity and intolerance.

By: PALMN 006 2020-10-05 11:21:27
Beautifully written book and a lot of sadness. Created much discussion in our group.

By: WELL 134 2020-10-05 10:40:59
This book was generally enjoyed. A poignant story with lots of themes to discuss such as WWI, conscientious objection, stigma of homosexuality, and the emotional pain expressed in different ways by Tristan, Will and Margaret.

By: AUCK 395 2020-10-05 10:38:34
All members who read this thought it a brilliant book. Well-written, easy to read but 'full'. It touches/examines the social/military rules of the time 'gently', but really getting the point of brutality and social beliefs through. John Boyne is an exceptional author. Our group has never previously been unanimous in its critique of a book!

By: CHCH 282 2020-10-05 10:05:12
This is a clever, powerful and well-written book, that needs to be written and read - a real cliff-hanger which is sad but compelling. The author seems to have gotten into the minds of conscientious objectors and absolutionists, and integrated into his writing the complex issues of bravery and cowardice.

By: WAIUK 003 2019-10-16 14:28:49
Well-written, very graphic. Lots of conversation. Generally well liked.

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