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Horrors of war remain

Soldier’s guilt of surviving drives actions

By Kathy Habel

For The Free Lance–Star

“THE Absolutist” opens with a young man, Tristan Sadler, traveling by train to Norwich, intent on delivering a packet of letters to the sister of his best friend, who died while serving in World War I.  Tristan is driven to complete his self-appointed task, seeking some kind of redemption.

Tristan is a troubled young man.  Kicked out of his home at the age of 17, and not knowing what else to do, he joins the army.  While training at Aldershot, he meets Will, an idealistic young man who embodies all of the qualities that Tristan seems to be lacking.  They form a firm friendship and together master the basics of fighting a war.  They are shipped to France to fight the Germans in the cold and mud of the trenches.

Fighting for a cause seems like a good and noble endeavor.  However, the reality of war is something else.  World War I introduced trench warfare.  Young men were forced to endure terrible conditions, in which   three things might happen.  The young soldier might endure and fight bravely, he might be seen as a coward and be  shot, or he might hang on and do what he had to do to survive.

The  author gives us much to think about.  What is a just war?  How do young men overcome the horrors of war?  How does one assuage a guilty conscience?  John Boyne does a masterful job of presenting these questions and provides ample ammunition for thoughtful discussion.

The book is thought provoking on many levels  and well worth the time it takes to read.

Kathy Habel  is a freelance reviewer  in Spotsylvania County.

THE ABSOLUTIST

By John Boyne

(Other Press, $16.95,  320 pp.)

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/books/2012/07/30/horrors-of-war-remain/

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