The Absolutist by John Boyne
“September 1919:20 year-old Tristan Sadler takes a train from London to Norwich to deliver some letters to Marian Bancroft. Tristan fought alongside Marian’s brother Will during the Great War but in 1917, Will laid down his guns on the battlefield, declared himself a conscientious objector and was shot as a traitor, an act which has brought shame and dishonour on the Bancroft family.
But the letters are not the real reason for Tristan’s visit. He holds a secret deep in his soul. One that he is desperate to unburden himself of to Marian, if he can only find the courage.
As they stroll through the streets of a city still coming to terms with the end of the war, he recalls his friendship with Will, from the training ground at Aldershot to the trenches of Northern France, and speaks of how the intensity of their friendship brought him from brief moments of happiness and self-discovery to long periods of despair and pain.”
– Taken from http://www.johnboyne.com/fiction/the-absolutist-2/
I borrowed the above lengthy quote from John Boyne’s website as I don’t think – rather I know that I couldn’t – have described the story better myself.
I rather enjoyed this book. It was easy to read but still very enjoyable. The tale is moving and I found that the split between Tristan’s visit to Will’s sister and his experiences on the Western Front was a great way to tie the two parts of the story together.
The story is very moving and somewhat very different from the usual Western Front war-time novels of others. Very very different from All Quiet on the Western Front for example. But it still portrays the hopelessness felt by the men and the lasting effect the war had on the one’s that survived. It also tales the moving tale of conscientious objectors, proving that they were not cowards. The death surrounding them and the vile treatment of soldiers on both sides of No Man’s Land would be enough to test anyone’s courage.
The story however is that of beyond war. It tells the tale of Tristan, who like Will, has brought shame upon his family. The story is a simple one, but Boyne writes beautifully well and through the simplicity he is able to reveal the destructive power of secrets.
Beautiful, moving and sad. Well worth a read.
Roman Blood by Steven Saylor
“The highly regarded first book in Steven Saylor’s Gordianus series which is being reissued with brand new covers to tie-in with the highly successful look of Roma and Empire.A thrilling puzzle from the ancient world with real historical characters and based on a case in Cicero’s Orations – Roman Bloodis a perfect blend of mystery and history by a brilliant storyteller.
On an unseasonably warm spring morning in 80BC, Gordianus the Finder is summoned to the house of Cicero, a young advocate and orator preparing his first important case. His client is Umbrian landowner, Sextus Roscius, accused of the unforgivable: the murder of his own father.
Gordianus agrees to investigate the crime – in a society fire with deceit, betrayal and conspiracy, where neither citizen nor slave can be trusted to speak the truth. But even Gordianus is not prepared for the spectacularly dangerous fireworks that attend the resolution of this ugly, delicate case…”
I had never a book set in Ancient Rome before. Not because the period doesn’t interest me – all periods of history do, but, well, I don’t really know why. I just hadn’t. I haven’t really read much set in the ancient periods. The only exception to this was the Ancient Egyptian series by Wilbur Smith.
But I was pleasantly surprised. I was impressed by his dedication to research which was incredibly detailed for he managed to transport the reader into the heart of Roman, smells, sights and all. I was able to picture the scenes easily and vividly in my mind. I was impressed also with his dedication to historical accuracy.
The story was interesting, but not what I would normally go for, but now I may. It had enough twist and turns to keep you on your toes and enough interesting characters to make me want to read more.
I wasn’t entirely sure about the ending. Maybe I’ll have to read the book again to pick up on any clues that may have been left for the reader. But others have said that they were surprised by the ending – and well so was I. But you’ll have to read it and find out for yourself. I’m one reader/reviewer who doesn’t believe in spoilers.
I could say that the story line at times was a bit weak, but I think that it’s the history which makes the story work and the book an interesting and fascinating read.
I’ve included links to their profiles on http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk for their full list of books. I certainly will be checking them out further and reading more by them both.