The Absolutist by John Boyne

This is an amazing novel; it is also extremely sad. The sadness comes not only from events concerning the characters but also from the realization that what we revere as civilization is completely warped. At the end of WWI, Tristan Sadler, the main character in the novel, seeks out his friend Will's sister in order to return a packet of letters. The story develops innocently enough, but, gradually, we become aware that Tristan's experiences during the war were anything but innocent. Through the eyes of Tristan and others, we are confronted not only with the flaws and the hypocrisy of our present-day civilization but also with contemporary attitudes towards war, killing, conscientious objectors and, not least, homosexuality. Slowly Tristan becomes aware of the injustice and the hypocrisy that flourished during the war, and he also becomes aware of the part he played through either fear or ignorance or a combination of both. Very well written, "The Absolutist" is not only an anti-war novel but also a 'wake-up' call to those who still hold fast to narrow-minded attitudes prevalent within our society.

Photograph: Mark Condren