brianreynolds

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.

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