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"Seated opposite me in a railway carriage, the elderly lady in the fox-fur shawl was recalling some of the murders that she had committed over the years." So begins John Boyne's novel, The Absolutist, a tale that, like its memorable beginning, is not quite what it first seems. The year is 1919 and twenty-one-year old Tristan Sadler is meeting with the sister of his friend Will Bancroft, who died in the war, in order to return some letters to her. But the packet of letters is not all Tristan carries with him. He also has a secret (it's not a hard secret to figure out, but I won't ruin it). Peppered with flashbacks to 1916, Tristan reveals more about himself (and Will) as he struggles to decide what he should talk about and what he should keep hidden forever.
John Boyne is also the author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. I didn't read the book, but I saw the movie and it wasn't just sad, it was mess-you-up sad. So I was nervous when I started The Absolutist, thinking I'd need to take a week off afterwards to recover from the super sadness. It's not that sad, but, you know, it's not all wine and roses for our boy Tristan.