Friday, April 16, 2021

Showcase The Absolutist A Novel by JOHN BOYNE

Today I'm showcasing Other Press's new edition of John Boyne's The Absolutist. Stop by and read all about it!

ISBN-13: 978-1-63542-166-8
Publisher: Other Press
Release Date: 4-13-02021
Length: 320pp
Buy It: OtherPress/ Amazon/ B&N/ IndieBound


A new edition of the beloved novel most similar thematically to the author’s mega-bestseller The Heart’s Invisible Furies

It is September 1919, and twenty-one-year-old Tristan Sadler takes a train from London to Norwich to deliver a package of letters to the sister of Will Bancroft, the man he fought alongside during the Great War.

But the letters are not the real reason for Tristan’s visit. He can no longer keep a secret and has finally found the courage to unburden himself of it. As he recounts the horrific details of what to him became a senseless war, he also speaks of his friendship with Will–from their first meeting on the training grounds at Aldershot to their farewell in the trenches of northern France. The intensity of their bond brought Tristan happiness and self-discovery as well as confusion and unbearable pain.

The Absolutist is a masterful, unforgettable tale of passion, jealousy, heroism, and betrayal set in one of the most gruesome trenches of France during World War I.

Read an excerpt:


Norwich, 15–16 September 1919

Seated opposite me in the railway carriage, the elderly lady in the fox-fur shawl was recalling some of the murders that she had committed over the years. “There was the vicar in Leeds,” she said, smiling a little as she tapped her lower lip with her index finger. “And the spinster from Hartlepool whose tragic secret was to prove her undoing. The actress from London, of course, who took up with her sister’s husband just after his return from the Crimea. She was a flighty piece so no one could blame me for that. But the maid-of-all-work in Connaught Square, I rather regretted killing her. She was a hard-working girl of good Northern stock, who perhaps didn’t deserve such a brutal ending.”
“That was one of my favourites,” I replied. “If you ask me, she got what was coming to her. She read letters that were not hers to read.”
“I know you, don’t I?” she asked, sitting forward now, narrowing her eyes as she examined my face for familiar signs. A sharp combination of lavender and face cream, her mouth viscous with blood-red lipstick. “I’ve seen you somewhere before.”
“I work for Mr. Pynton at the Whisby Press,” I told her. “My name’s Tristan Sadler. We met at a literary lunch a few months ago.” I extended my hand and she stared at it for a moment, as if unsure what was expected of her, before shaking it carefully, her fingers never quite closing on my own. “You gave a talk on untraceable poisons,” I added.
“Yes, I remember it now,” she said, nodding quickly. “You had five books that wanted signing. I was struck by your enthusiasm.” I smiled, flattered that she recalled me at all. “I’m a great admirer,” I said, and she inclined her head graciously, a movement that must have been honed over thirty years of receiving praise from her readers. “As is Mr. Pynton. He’s talked several times about trying to lure you over to our house.”
“Yes, I know Pynton,” she replied with a shudder. “Vile little man. Terrible halitosis. I wonder that you can bear to be near him. I can see why he employed you, though.”
I raised an eyebrow, confused, and she offered me a half-smile.
“Pynton likes to be surrounded by beautiful things,” she explained. “You must have seen it in his taste for artwork and those ornate couches that look as though they belong in the Paris atelier of some fashion designer. You remind me of his last assistant, the scandalous one. But no, there’s no chance, I’m afraid. I’ve been with my publisher for over thirty years and I’m perfectly happy where I am.”
She sat back, her expression turning to ice, and I knew that I had disgraced myself, turning what had been a pleasant exchange into a potential business transaction. I looked out of the window, embarrassed. Glancing at my watch, I saw that we were running about an hour later than planned and now the train had stopped again without explanation.
“This is exactly why I never go up to town any more,” she declared abruptly as she struggled to open the window, for the carriage had begun to grow stuffy. “You simply cannot rely on the railways to bring you home again.”
“Here, let me help you with that, missus,” said the young man who had been sitting next to her, speaking in whispered, flirtatious tones to the girl next to me since we departed Liverpool Street. He stood and leaned forward, a breeze of perspiration, and gave the window a hefty pull. It opened with a jolt, allowing a rush of warm air and engine-steam to spill inside.
“My Bill’s a dab hand with machinery,” said the young woman, giggling with pride.
“Leave it out, Margie,” he said, smiling only a little as he sat down.
“He fixed engines during the war, didn’t you, Bill?”
“I said leave it out, Margie,” he repeated, colder now, and as he caught my eye we considered each other for a moment before looking away.
“It was just a window, dear,” sniffed the lady-novelist with impeccable timing.
It struck me how it had taken over an hour for our three parties even to acknowledge each other’s presence. It reminded me of the story of the two Englishmen, left alone on a deserted island together for five years after a shipwreck, who never exchanged a single word of conversation as they had never been properly introduced.
Twenty minutes later, our train shifted into motion and we were on our way, finally arriving in Norwich more than an hour and a half behind schedule. The young couple disembarked first, a flurry of hysterical impatience and rush-me-to-our-room giggles, and I helped the writer with her suitcase.
“You’re very kind,” she remarked in a distracted fashion as she scanned the platform. “My driver should be here somewhere to help me the rest of the way.”
“It was a pleasure to meet you,” I said, not trying for another handshake but offering an awkward nod of the head instead, as if she were the Queen and I a loyal subject. “I hope I didn’t embarrass you earlier. I only meant that Mr. Pynton wishes we had writers of your calibre on our list.”
She smiled at this—I am relevant, said her expression, I matter—and then she was gone, uniformed driver in tow. But I remained where I was, surrounded by people rushing to and from their platforms, lost within their number, quite alone in the busy railway station.

I emerged from the great stone walls of Thorpe Station into an unexpectedly bright afternoon, and found that the street where my lodgings were located, Recorder Road, was only a short walk away. Upon arriving, however, I was disappointed to find that my room was not quite ready.
“Oh dear,” said the landlady, a thin woman with a pale, scratchy complexion. She was trembling, I noticed, although it was not cold, and wringing her hands nervously. She was tall, too. The type of woman who stands out in a crowd for her unexpected stature. “I’m afraid we owe you an apology, Mr. Sadler. We’ve been at sixes and sevens all day. I don’t quite know how to explain what’s happened.”
“I did write, Mrs. Cantwell,” I said, trying to soften the note of irritation that was creeping into my tone. “I said I would be here shortly after five. And it’s gone six now.” I nodded in the direction of the grandfather clock that stood in the corner behind her desk. “I don’t mean to be awkward, but—”
“You’re not being awkward at all, sir,” she replied quickly. “The room should have been ready for you hours ago, only . . .” She trailed off and her forehead wrinkled into a series of deep grooves as she bit her lip and turned away; she seemed unable to look me in the eye. “We had a bit of unpleasantness this morning, Mr. Sadler, that’s the truth of it. In your room. Or what was to be your room, that is. You probably won’t want it now. I know I shouldn’t. I don’t know what I’ll do with it, honestly I don’t. It’s not as if I can afford to leave it unlet.”
Her agitation was obvious, and despite my mind being more or less focused on my plans for the following day, I was concerned for her and was about to ask whether there was anything I could do to help when a door opened behind her and she spun around. A boy of about seventeen appeared, whom I took to be her son: he had a look of her around the eyes and mouth, although his complexion was worse, scarred as he was by the acne of his age. He stopped short, taking me in for a moment, before turning to his mother in frustration.
“I told you to call me when the gentleman arrived, didn’t I?” he said, glaring at her.
“But he’s only just arrived this minute, David,” she protested. “It’s true,” I said, feeling a curious urge to jump to her defence. “I did.”
“But you didn’t call me,” he insisted to his mother. “What have you told him, anyway?”
“I haven’t told him anything yet,” she said, turning back to me with an expression that suggested she might cry if she was bullied any longer. “I didn’t know what to say.”
“I do apologize, Mr. Sadler,” he said, turning to me now with a complicit smile, as if to imply that he and I were of a type who understood that nothing would go right in the world if we did not take it out of the hands of women and look after it ourselves. “I had hoped to be here to greet you myself. I asked Ma to tell me the moment you arrived. We expected you earlier, I think.”
“Yes,” I said, explaining about the unreliable train. “But really, I am rather tired and hoped to go straight to my room.” “Of course, sir,” he said, swallowing a little and staring down at the reception desk as if his entire future were mapped out in the wood; here in the grain was the girl he would marry, here the children they would have, here the lifetime of bickering misery they would inflict upon each other. His mother touched him lightly on the arm and whispered something in his ear, and he shook his head quickly and hissed at her to stay quiet. “It’s a mess, the whole thing,” he said, raising his voice suddenly as he returned his attention to me. “You were to stay in number four, you see. But I’m afraid number four is indisposed right now.”
“Well, couldn’t I stay in one of the other rooms, then?” I asked.
“Oh no, sir,” he replied, shaking his head. “No, they’re all taken, I’m afraid. You were down for number four. But it’s not ready, that’s the problem. If you could just give us a little extra time to prepare it.”
He stepped out from behind the desk now and I got a better look at him. Although he was only a few years younger than me, his appearance suggested a child play-acting as an adult. He wore a pair of man’s trousers, a little too long for him, so rolled and pinned in the leg to compensate, and a shirt, tie and waistcoat combination that would not have seemed out of place on a much older man. The beginnings of a moustache were teased into a fearful line across his upper lip, and for a moment I couldn’t decide whether in fact it was a moustache at all or simply a dirty smudge overlooked by the morning’s facecloth. Despite his attempts to look older, his youth and inexperience were obvious. He could not have been out there with the rest of us, of that I felt certain.
“David Cantwell,” he said after a moment, extending his hand towards me.
“It’s not right, David,” said Mrs. Cantwell, blushing furiously. “The gentleman will have to stay somewhere else tonight.”
“And where is he to stay, then?” asked the boy, turning on her, his voice raised, a sense of injustice careering through his tone. “You know everywhere’s full up. So where should I send him, because I certainly don’t know. To Wilson’s? Full! To Dempsey’s? Full! To Rutherford’s? Full! We have an obligation, Ma. We have an obligation to Mr. Sadler and we must meet our obligations or else we disgrace ourselves, and hasn’t there been enough of that for one day?”
I was startled by the suddenness of his aggression and had an idea of what life might be like in the boarding house for this pair of mismatched souls. A boy and his mother, alone together since he was a child, for her husband, I decided, had been killed in an accident involving a threshing machine years before. The boy was too young to remember his father, of course, but worshipped him nevertheless and had never quite forgiven his mother for forcing the poor man out to work every hour that God sent. And then the war had come and he’d been too young to fight. He’d gone to enlist and they’d laughed at him. They’d called him a brave boy and told him to come back in a few years’ time when he had some hair on his chest, if the godforsaken thing wasn’t over already, and they’d see about him then. And he’d marched back to his mother and despised her for the relief on her face when he told her that he was going nowhere, not yet, anyway.
Even then, I would imagine scenarios like this all the time, searching in the undergrowth of my plots for tangled circumstances.


“A moving and deeply felt tribute to a love that dared to speak its name once—or maybe twice—and then forever held its tongue. We suffer in silence, we love in silence, and we regret and learn to live our unlived lives in silence as well.” —André Aciman, author of Call Me by Your Name

“A novel of immeasurable sadness, in a league with Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair…Boyne is very, very good at portraying the destructive power of a painfully kept secret…this is a forbidden love story, a gay love story, but one with a terrible twist.” —John Irving, author of A Prayer for Owen Meany

“John Boyne brings a completely fresh eye to the most important stories…He is one of the great craftsmen in contemporary literature.” —Colum McCann, National Book Award-winning author of Let the Great World Spin

“A wonderful, sad, tender book [that] is going to have an enormous impact on everyone who reads it.” —Colm Tóibín, author of Brooklyn

“A gripping, superbly plotted novel, filled with surprises that are by turns confounding, disturbing and tremendously moving. For all its spellbinding narrative momentum, The Absolutist is, in the end, a sober meditation on the heartbreak that ensues when people and principles collide.” —Paul Russell, author of The Unreal Life of Sergey Nabokov

“Extraordinary…The narrative is by turns surprising and tragic in equal measure while its troubling conclusion will stay with readers long after they’ve closed the book.” —Carlo Gébler, author of The Dead Eight

“Powerful, poignant, and beautifully written. This will become a classic war novel.” —The Bookseller

“A fable about forbidden love in the first world war…effortlessly readable.” —The Guardian

“Political, personal, powerful…a fiercely interrogative novel that asks not just what it means to be a man but also what it means to be a human being in the extreme circumstances of war.” —Irish Times

“A relentlessly tragic yet beautifully crafted novel.” —Publishers Weekly

“A thought-provoking and surprising page-turner that for some readers may recall Ian McEwan’s Atonement.” —Library Journal

“Poetic, passionate, and poignant, The Absolutist is about self-discovery, friendship, and how far bravery can take us.” —Interview Magazine

About the author:
John Boyne was born in Ireland in 1971 and is the author of twelve novels for adults, most recently the New York Times bestseller The Heart’s Invisible Furies, A Ladder to the Sky, and A Traveler at the Gates of Wisdom as well as six novels for teens and young adults including the #1 New York Times bestselling The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.