Our thanks to John Irving for sharing his thoughts on John Boyne's The Absolutist, one of our Best Books of July.
I became an admirer of John Boyne's writing with his first novel, The Thief of Time.
His latest, The Absolutist, is a novel of immeasurable sadness, in a league with Graham Greene's The End of the Affair and a no less masterful handling of the first-person narrative voice than Michael Ondaatje's The Cat's Table.
Boyne is very, very good at portraying the destructive power of a painfully kept secret "” not to mention the damage done by the self-recriminations (and other condemnations) that are released when that secret is revealed.
The Absolutist is one of those great stories that is not what it first seems, though what the story appears to be is a powerful enough premise to begin any novel: a young soldier, returning from World War One, is traveling from London to Norwich to deliver some letters to the grieving sister of a fallen comrade.
We presume that the worst of what has happened is what we already know or have imagined of those trenches in northern France. (Boyne is also very, very good at historical fiction; The Absolutist begins in September 1919.) But the young soldier, who is twenty-one, has something to confess; this is a forbidden love story, a gay love story, but one with a terrible twist. . . .
>See all of John Boyne's books
>See all of John Irving's books