BOOK CLUB – The Absolutist by John Boyne

The Testament of Jessie Lamb

Welcome to BOOK CLUB, a joint venture between me and Jen from Devourer of Books.  Today we are discussing The Absolutist by John Boyne which is being  published by Other Press. The Absolutist is out today.


From the Publisher:

It is September 1919: 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 Tristan 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.


If you plan on participating in today’s BOOK CLUB, please consider subscribing to comments at the bottom of the page, and check back throughout the day as more questions are added to the post.

Let’s go!

I am going to go light on the questions initially because I am really curious to see what arises naturally out of the discussion.

  • What were your general impressions of the book, and how did your thoughts and opinions evolve as the story unfolded?
  • Did you think about the title of the book at all? Did it shape your experience and thoughts while reading? How? Did anyone know from the beginning what it meant to be an “absolutist”?

Read Reviews At: Devourerof Books – Between the CoversHome Cooked BooksRead HandedThe Redheaded Reader 

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 BOOK CLUB   Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung

12 copies of The Absolutist  were provided by Other Press in order to facilitate this discussion. Thank you so much!

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  1. I love this book. I’m still thinking about it, and I finished it last week. It’s truly heartbreaking, but I think Boyne did a terrific job of keeping the emotion in the book well-balanced so I didn’t get too heavy or depressing.

    I’m a pacifist, so I think (most) wars are ridiculous and I agreed with the conscientious objector from the very beginning. I also knew was moral absolutism was before I read this, but I wasn’t sure how it would tie in to the book at first–I wasn’t sure who the absolutist would turn out to be.

    I am still thinking about Tristan and what his true motivations were for being in the firing squad. I think Will said all of those nasty things in confinement to try to save Tristan from a broken heart–I think he wanted Tristan to be angry with him and get over him, rather than pine over someone he could never have, but I’m still thinking about whether Tristan was part of the firing squad because of anger, or because of some other reason. I don’t want to say too much because I want to see what other people in the discussion think.

    1. I think Tristan acted out of hurt and anger and unfortunately had the opportunity to exact revenge in the heat of the moment. He should have never been allowed to participate and that was the failing of those in charge. I’m not sure if I felt that Will was genuine in his feelings for Tristan. He definitely hated himself for his actions, and his weakness but I wasn’t sure by the end how much he was telling the truth or not at the end. I guess it makes sense in light of the questions of his engagement and maybe wanting to avoid what Tristan had experienced – but just wasn’t convinced his feelings for Tristan were as real.

      1. My initial reaction about Tristan being a part of the firing squad is the same as yours–that he was so angry and so hurt that he wanted nothing more than to murder Will himself. As Will’s sister said, Tristan only wanted to kill Will because he couldn’t have Will.

        At the same time, I wonder if Tristan thought he was also doing Will a favor by being a familiar face in the crowd, so to speak. If Will was going to be murdered by the military, did Tristan feel like it would be better for him to be a part of it instead of a bunch of guys Will didn’t know or like? I don’t know. These are the things I’m still mulling over in my head.

        1. That’s an interesting thought, and maybe I could have seen that as a part of his thought process IF they had been on speaking terms AND on good terms. He seemed so angry that I don’t know that I say that much thought for Will, plus, the fact that Will seemed so betrayed by the fact Tristan was the one holding the gun – and rightly so. I think my sympathy for him was less in that moment because however he might have suffered was momentary and then over in comparison to Tristan spending the rest of his life punishing himself.

    2. I believe that Tristan was filled with rage, not just toward Will who had rejected him, but also toward his father who wished him dead. Tristan, to me, was such a sympathetic character – he was gay in a time when gay men could not reveal their sexuality at all…and he had been literally removed from his family because of it (remember he was only 17 when he left home). I think he reacted to that final rejection by wanting to not only kill Will, but to take revenge on all those people who had turned away from him because he was gay. Ultimately, he suffered terrible guilt for this…

      1. I agree Wendy, and not that the final result was inappropriate for the amount of guilt that he felt, I still wish that he had allowed himself to find some kind of companionship, if not love. That was heartbreaking as well as the young age that he was forced from home. He was 17 by the time he got to the army, but I think there was an additional year when he was living off on his own. Boyne doesn’t go into much detail there, but I think he was 16 when he was thrown out.

        1. I think you’re right, Nicole – he was 16 when he was kicked out of his home. What a tragedy for this young boy. This book was so heartbreaking. I’m still thinking about it.

  2. I have 50 pages left to read – would have finished last night, but I was so tired! I’ll post a review by tonight.

    That said – I have been loving this book. I like the narrative structure where Boyne takes us back to the war, then comes back to the present. I find myself reading with a huge ache in my chest. This is my first Boyne novel, but it won’t be my last.

    I looked up moral absolutism and found this definition: Moral absolutism is an ethical view that certain actions are absolutely right or wrong, regardless of other contexts such as their consequences or the intentions behind them. Thus stealing, for instance, might be considered to be always immoral, even if done to promote some other good (e.g., stealing food to feed a starving family), and even if it does in the end promote such a good. Based on that definition, the title of this book is perfect. Not only are their the absolutist positions on war, but Boyne also shows that same strict moral position on homosexuality. Despite the book being set during WWI, it could just have easily been set in today’s world where moral judgements are constantly being assigned to people because of the sexual identity.

    Wow, lots to talk about with this one. I promise to be back after lunch (I’m working this morning) for more discussion!!!

    1. That’s a good point that they were also absolutists in terms of sexuality. Unfortunately a lot of the same prejudices still hold and it is still a timely book in spite of being set back during World War I. Looking forward to hearing what you have to say when you’re done!

  3. I didn’t “get” what it meant to be an “absolutist” until they explained it in the book. Until then, I was thinking that “Feather Men” might have been a good title, but when I really consider it, “The Absolutist” can apply to more than just Will. It speaks to living in a world of gray areas and standing for something. Marian is also an absolutist to some degree (can you be an absolutist in degree? I guess not).
    I enjoyed how deeply Boyne incorporated gray areas, especially in the characters. The characters all have good traits and bad traits. Even Will can be cruel. I’m not sure about Heather’s theory about Will being cruel to be kind before his death. How does that tie in to his pattern of cold behavior toward Tristan? Not to mention, we only hear the story from Tristan’s point of view. How reliable of a narrator is he? I also didn’t hate Tristan, even at the end (though I’m not sure I’d like to hang out with old man writer Tristan – doesn’t seem pleasant). I think about all the trials he suffered – with his family, coming out (as much as you could in those days), the war, his friends/crushes – and wonder if I would behave any better with that kind of history.
    Boyne doesn’t paint any character as all good or all evil (Tristan’s father?), showing how difficult it is to truly be an “absolutist” in practice.
    Definitely a well-written and interesting book. Boyne’s use of suspense and flashbacks were fantastic. I really did not see the ending coming – but maybe that’s just me!

    1. I think what Will was going through was very complex. Even if he had lived, he never would have been able to carry on a relationship with Tristan (although I believe in his heart, he wanted to). Being gay was against the law, his father was a vicar–he was going to have to play the role of a heterosexual, get married, and have children. I really do think that Will was trying to save Tristan’s feelings because he knew how much Tristan loved him. I think he was doing his best not to let Tristan become too attached to him because everything would change after the war, and they wouldn’t be able to carry on any kind of life together. I think he was doing this throughout the novel, but because it wasn’t working, he had to be very direct about it at the end.

      1. That could be true, but why pursue Tristan in the first place? I n seems like he always had the upper hand in that relationship. He knew how much Tristan looked up to him and wanted to please him. No doubt, he was conflicted but he also seemed rather cool and calculated throughout. And what was that business about Will discussing Tristan with the murdered officer?

        1. He pursued Tristan because he liked Tristan. Maybe he recognized something in Tristan right away that let him know they were similar in ways that mattered (but had to remain secret). In terms of their “relationship,” this was a place where Will could potentially act on feelings that he never could have acted on anywhere else–the military and the war gave him the cover he needed to do things that he couldn’t do elsewhere. I think what you saw has “cool and calculated” was actually confusion and self-loathing on the part of Will.

          About the conversation between Will and the murdered soldier, I think one of two things: 1. They never had that conversation to begin with and Will was just saying that because he knew the other guy wasn’t there to dispute it. It was all just a part of the made-up hurtful things he was saying.

          2. They DID have the conversation, but Will already knew Tristan was gay at that point and so the conversation was probably nothing more than the murdered soldier saying, “Oh hey, in case you care, that guy is gay,” and Will responding with something that would make him look surprised or as though he knew and didn’t care. I don’t think the murdered soldier was one of those people who would have been all gung-ho about outing Tristan or terrorizing him, as is evidenced by the few conversations Tristan had with him.

            1. I mean, it’s obvious that he’s gay or bisexual, and it’s obvious (because of his father and the times) that he can’t be open about it. It was also obvious to me that he really liked Tristan. It seems obvious to me that he’s a very confused man, and lots of non-straight people carry self-loathing. I’m not sure what you feel I’m projecting that isn’t there, I guess.

              1. I guess it’s that he actually liked Tristan. To me, he displayed as much indifference and nasty behavior toward him as friendly behavior. But I think there’s an argument that it’s purposefully ambiguous.

                1. I definitely agree with that. I think it is purposefully ambiguous (and it kind of had to be since Tristan couldn’t know what was going on inside Will’s head, just as we can’t).

              2. I agree with you Heather. I also felt that beneath the cold exterior, Will was a young man who was probably gay but who felt terribly conflicted over it..and yes, self-loathing. His defense against that part of him was to strike out at Tristan, make it seem that it was all Tristan and Will had no emotional attachment. I think Will’s final word “Tristan” says it all. I do believe he loved Tristan despite his terrible behavior toward him. It was a complicated and impossible relationship that was doomed to fail before it even began.

    2. Julie, I am usually pretty good at spotting an ending and I had no idea where this was going. I just had an ever present feeling of dread that things were not going to end well. The suspense was amazingly well done, because even though I knew some things, there were still surprises – like how the father hesitated at the the door, and still ultimately disowned his son. The fact that the girl and his best friend didn’t make it as a couple, and all of that heartbreak was basically over nothing.

      I had my doubts about his “love” for Tristan even though it is Tristan’s story. I felt that he was cold. I also felt that Will and Marian were similar in their lean toward cruelty. She really got to me, and I thought insisting that Tristan meet her family, only to have him dismissed and maltreated was especially terrible. They were both really self-absorbed. I felt that Tristan was a pretty reliable narrator. It was evident that his secret was eating away at him, and I don’t feel like there were any surprises that made me question the story that he had been telling all along.

      1. I agree with your second paragraph, Nicole. I think that if Boyne wanted us to know more about Will’s feelings for Tristan, he would have included more evidence that he was truly drawn to him.

        1. I guess what I saw was that WILL didn’t want Tristan to know more about his feelings that what he showed. I saw Will’s feelings in his actions–that’s also where I saw his confusion.

      2. I also did not see that ending coming.

        I agree that Marian was terribly cruel. I did not even understand why she wanted to see him at the end, only to thrust a knife into his chest essentially? But, I do think she was an important character – she was also an absolutist with regards to her black and white view of Tristan and what he did…no forgiveness to be found there. I think she was representative of society as a whole, don’t you?

  4. I adored this book! I’m so glad we read it for Book Club. I was devastated by the end, but it was such a beautiful story and so well-written. I really liked that even though I had a pretty good idea of what would happen to Will, the actual ending still took me by surprise.

    I knew a little about conscientious objectors before starting, but had not heard of the term absolutist before. I think the title fit well, leaving open the question of who would turn out to be the character fitting the title.

    I’m with Heather — I’m still dwelling on Tristan and the firing squad. I don’t know if I think Will was trying to save Tristan from a broken heart though; I think that maybe Will really was disgusted, not necessarily with Tristan but with the unknown and taboo feelings that being with Tristan raised, and I think Will was fighting himself more than anything. I think that it’s devastating to him in the last moment when he sees Tristan in the firing squad lineup because it’s Will’s raw emotions, without the filter of reason and the wall that he puts up between them the rest of the time to quash his feelings. I think the impression that I got on Tristan’s side was less anger and more pure hurt. Like he was so incredibly devastated and hurt that he wanted nothing more than to lash out and make somebody else feel his pain. But I’m curious to see what others thought too!

    1. I agree that Will was also trying to save himself–there was no doubt that he was very conflicted about his feelings and his desires. World War I was definitely not the only war going on in the novel–Will and Tristan were both going through their own internal wars and a war with each other, as well. I do think that Will cared about Tristan, though, and I think this shows when he sees Tristan in the firing squad. Will’s face falls, and he says Tristan’s name–that’s what brought me to the conclusion that he was trying to save Tristan from the pain by making him angry, but he never expected Tristan to be a part of the squad that would kill him.

  5. I had a whole set of emotional responses to this book, which probably speaks to the quality of the writing; it certainly affected me. But I have to admit that as so many of those emotional responses were unpleasant– frustration, outrage, deep sadness, horror — I dreaded going back to the book each night. My curiosity (and my dedication to book club;) did keep me at it.

    I disagree with Heather’s POV on Will. So interesting that he was the Absolutist as I found him to be so morally bankrupt when it came to his relationship with Tristan. Even trying to put myself in his shoes as someone with homosexual desires in a culture where it was so derided, he was a coward, and a nasty one at that.

    Perhaps because I spent so much time with Tristan, he really grew on me. And he had beaten himself up so much for his actions, that I didn’t judge him horribly for his participation in the firing squad.

    I did not have any idea what the title referred to until it was revealed in the book. In reading other responses here, I am realizing that I am the opposite of an Absolutist! I can’t help but see both sides and all the gray areas. Perhaps that’s another reason I was resistant to this book. Even though the killing of the young German boy was horrible, I felt that from WIll (considering his other behavior) the stance was a cop out, a giving up, rather than a real stand.

    1. I think one of the things I liked best about this book was that Boyne showed that everyone has a courageous side and a coward side. You’re right–Will was a coward about being gay, at the same time that he was courageous for standing up to the military as an absolutist. People are complex and hypocritical–it’s human nature. I think at the same time that he was trying to push Tristan away so Tristan wouldn’t pine after him (or so he thought), the things he was saying were really a reflection of what he felt about himself. I think he was disgusted with himself for leading Tristan on when Will knew that he would never be able to continue that life with Tristan, and I think he was disgusted with himself for allowing Tristan to fall in love with him. So I think what he was saying to Tristan during confinement had two purposes.

  6. I had no idea what it meant to be an absolutist, and I didn’t really think about the title too much until it was mentioned later on in the book.

    When I started out with the book, I was just trying to get through it. I didn’t quite know what to expect yet, but after a short amount of time I was hooked. The writing was so great and by the time I finished, I was so sad that I couldn’t read it anymore! I can’t wait to hear other people’s thoughts!

  7. I love the way this story unfolded so mysteriously. From the very first I felt like I was reading a meticulously planned mystery and then the story opened up so much, that I forgot the author strongly hinted that we were going to be looking at some aspects of murder. Sitting down to write about the book, I am just realizing how startled I was by the initial conversation on the train where the woman is talking about all the ways to kill. Of course it turns out that she is a writer, but still it was a very striking way to begin.

    I felt so much for Tristan that I basically forgave him everything, and grieved for the fact that he had to live with being a part of the firing squad and the fact that he never allowed himself to experience love after that. The sister accused him of murder and Tristan also decided to take that upon himself. It is terrible what he did, Will was going to die anyway, so I guess I have some leeway for a decision coming out of hurt and betrayal.I tried to muster up some sympathy in that last moment where Will is cognizant of the fact that Tristan would be one of those pulling the trigger, but I have to say that I don’t have much. He was pretty vile by the end, and I wasn’t sure if he was a self-loathing homosexual caught up in the times or just using Tristan for his own sexual pleasure. There was evidence pointing to both, but he was such a tool throughout the entire relationship and so pretty self-righteous otherwise.

    I have never heard about absolutism of any kind, and it was interesting to see how it built to that. This was the first that I had heard of conscientious objectors being basically condemned to death and I really felt for them, especially those who were willing to work in support roles. Sad stuff all around.

    1. I loved the way the story unfolded also because it kept the book from getting too depressing all at once. So some pretty heartbreaking stuff would happen, but then the story would move back to the present and give the reader time to breath and settle his/her emotions. At least, that’s how the format of the book affected me. I think it worked really well in this book, coupled with the first person narrative.

      1. I agree about the format of the book. The story would start to get really intense in the flashbacks so the sudden shifts in time back to the present helped me breathe a little bit and collect my emotions and thoughts about what was happening. I think it worked really well too. It’s an example of the right way to do these kinds of shifts of time — abruptly enough that it’s obvious to the reader what time period we’re in, but cleanly without throwing off the whole story or flow of the narrative.

      2. I agree with this. It would have been impossible to stick with otherwise. What a horrible war. Not that any war is ok, but this one seems to have been particularly demonic.

    2. Oh, and for whatever reason Will acted the way he did in the end–out of some kind of sympathy or otherwise, I was totally frustrated with him throughout the book, as well. The majority of my sympathy definitely went to Tristan throughout. I felt sorry for Will only because he was so confused and torn about his identity and what that meant for him with a father for a vicar and a family that would most definitely disown him. It seems that because of the way he was brought up, Will was less (psychologically) able to handle the thought of his family wanting nothing to do with him. While Will was more courageous about fighting the military, Tristan was more courageous about his sexual identity. And now that I’ve typed this, I realize that maybe Will wanted to die at the end–maybe the stuff about being an absolutist wasn’t just about objecting to the war and killing people. Maybe it was the only way Will felt he could end his confusion and not have to deal with his conflicting thoughts–by dying. Tristan obviously felt the same way at the end of the book (which made me shed so many tears). By going against his orders in the military, he made his death more noble than it would have been had he chosen the route Tristan took in the end. It’s something to think about, anyway.

    3. I loved the way it began. It brought me up short for a second, but when the identity of the speaker was revealed, I started giggling. I loved those quick moments of lightness, because stories like this risk becoming bogged down in tragedy, but I thought Boyne struck a nice balance. It’s still deeply sad, but not to the point where you want to slit your wrists.

      I felt the same about Tristan, especially because Will was such an unsympathetic character and used Tristan pretty poorly. As readers, we also got to know Tristan pretty deeply, so by the time the execution scene happens, we understand why he makes his choice.

      The conscientious objector aspect was the most fascinating part of the book for me. Their treatment on the home front is covered pretty extensively in history, but I, too, had no idea that they were basically used as cannon fodder in the war. It was a pretty shocking revelation.

    4. Nicole, I totally agree with your 2nd and 3rd paragraphs, but on the 1st, I kind of felt like the whole bit on the train was in a different novel. Once he got to the hotel and there was the homosexual incident, it seemed to connect more to the rest.

    5. I agree, Nicole – the story was wonderfully plotted (so different from a lot of literary novels). I had forgotten about that initial conversation on the train! Yes, it was a terrific way to open the novel.

  8. A lot of thought is put forth as to who should fight wars, and the soldiers responsibility to each other. How do you feel that conscientious objectors and absolutists are viewed in the climate of today’s politics and wars? Should people be compelled to serve in spite of their beliefs? Where would you draw the line and who would you excuse?

    1. As long as there are wars to fight in, people who refuse to fight or who object to the war are always going to be accused of cowardice or being unpatriotic. It has always been that way, and it will always be that way. I actually think it’s pretty horrid (the name calling and accusations).

      At this point, since there isn’t a draft, someone who doesn’t want to fight doesn’t have to. Joining the military is a completely voluntary act now (It’s actually more complex than that, in a way, but that’s a discussion for a different time). Most wars are started for insanely stupid reasons and I don’t agree with them, so I personally would refuse to fight in the majority of them. I have a very hard time with the idea of killing another human being. As was brought up in the book, young men fight wars and kill each other in the name of those in power who send them into war in the first place (but who obviously have no intention of joining those young men in battle), and I just can’t be down with that.

      If there were a draft still, I would support conscientious objectors–I don’t know that there is a line to draw. Whether because of their beliefs, or because of a very real fear to be a part of a war, someone who is extremely adamant about not wanting to fight is only going to be more of a danger to those around them than a help. There are other ways to support one’s country that don’t involve killing or getting killed, so let those folks help in some other way (and not by being sent to the front lines to be killed just because they don’t agree with killing others). This is a difficult question to answer and one that I would need a lot of time to work through.

    2. Given our current political environment, this is a timely discussion. There is always such a divide between those who fully support a war, and those opposed to it. I have always been opposed to war, but I support those who fight for our country…seems odd, doesn’t it? I guess I see it this way: Our government should not be engaging us in war unless there is absolutely no other options open…those who are in the military and who are sent into these situations are only doing their job for their country. As Heather points out, there is currently no draft…so conscientious objection really doesn’t apply so much anymore (like it did during Vietnam for example). I do think people should be excused from fighting if they have a moral or religious objection to it. Remember in the book when the sergeant tries to force Wolf to fight with the other soldier? I was so repulsed by that scene – of course Wolf should not have been placed in that situation. I think most people would be angered by a situation where someone in power was trying to force someone to engage in a fist fight…so how is that different from forcing someone to pick up a weapon and join a war?

  9. I agree, Heather. I wish we could evolve beyond warring. But at the same time, it is lamentable that for the most part, those who serve in the military now are often there because of economics, which is patently unfair.
    It would seem more fair if we had compulsory service, where young people could choose to serve in the military, or in the parks or teaching, etc.

    1. That’s what I was getting at with my “It’s more complex than that” comment about it being voluntary. Some people really don’t have a choice but to volunteer, it seems.

  10. I just want to say that I love the BOOK CLUB discussions we have. I like that we have much different thoughts about the books lots of times–which is also what I love about reading in general. There are always so many different interpretations of the books we read, and many different things to think about. Thanks, Nicole and Jen!

  11. Sorry I’m late,my brain completly forgot about the discussion. Work has been kicking my rearend in this month.

    I think what struck me the most were the missed opportunites and the lives that weren’t lead. Eventhough Tristan survives the war he never really lived a life. He wrote book and had fans, but everything that makes life worth living was missing. He was racked by guilt in such a way that his living ended on the same day Will was executed.

    Because I dd read Gillespie and I earlier this year, I was forced to think about have realiable a narrator Tristan is, but after finishing the book I’m not sure he really emelished or changed anything from the way it happened. I think he was forced to see it from his own eyes so some thinks may have different meaning if Will had been telling his side, but I think the way the their relationship is potrayed was probably pretty accurate. As a gay man, I’ve seen men like Will who lash out, mainly at themselves, when the give in to feelings they don’t want. I wish these guys could have lived in different times, but if wishes were fishes.

    I think it was their relationship more than anything else that moved me. I understood the war issues and have quite a bit of sympathy with those who object, and while I think the battlefield executions (which happened more often than I think most people understand) are horrific, I do understand the militaries need to control what their own troops do. If one soldier is allowed to lay down his weapons, what’s to stop the entire army from doing so. So I’m a little torn when it comes to this aspect of the story.

    Right now I think I’m rambling so I will be back later.

    1. That was the saddest part of the book, and why I felt particularly devastated at the end. Tristan for the most part ceased to exist, the day that he participated in shooting Will. It’s one of those heat of the moment/blink of an eye situation that changes every thing and permanently. It was sad that he couldn’t see past his anger to see what the one moment would cost him. I do wonder what he was hoping to get by telling Will’s sister the entire story? More punishment, which was what he got from her and what she still felt entitled to – when she goes to his appearance all those years later.

      I never had any doubts that Tristan was an unreliable narrator. I think the guilt that he had probably forced him to look at thing from all different perspectives, and I suspect that he was probably as fair as he could be in representing all sides accurately.

      As far as putting up the “ambivalent” for execution, I think that some other system could be established to control the army. Unless you were an absolutist like Will, you were still there and suffering under all the conditions that the others were, and those men were willing to serve in capacities other than actual killing others. They could have rotated through any number of service positions without always being sent to the front.

  12. I just finished reading this book. I was completely overcome by it. The concept of the book was one that I wasn’t sure I would enjoy, but I find deep sorrow in the lives that were lost as a result of the war and the times they lived in. Was Tristan so complacent because everyone he loved and cared about in this world shunned him for being gay? I couldn’t help but feel saddness for him, especially in the end. He lived his remaining years, torturing himself in isolation and memories of what he had done; it was really quite compelling.

    When Tristan became the sixth man, I nearly started crying and I think the look on Will’s face was such a poignant moment. It was in that moment that I think Tristan lost all thought and concern for whatever would become of him. Marian sticking the knife in a little deeper by telling him that he killed Will because he couldn’t have him was just nasty on her part. Should Tristan have picked up that rifle? No. But he did and could never relieve himself of the guilt as a result. I wish that this book had occurred in a time when being gay wasn’t considered immoral, but that’s what continues pushing the reader through.

    I liked Will. I didn’t like how he treated Tristan after their encounters, but I liked him and felt he was a sympathetic character. He had feelings that he knew would make him an outcast if ever discovered, so in moments when his feelings got the best of him, he connected with Tristan. It was later, when he thought about how the world would hate him for being what he was, that he withdrew from Tristan. I think he did it because he felt if he wasn’t near Tristan, didn’t talk to him, didn’t have that connection, he could push his feelings aside. His self loathing was evident. And it was sad. I do believe he had strong feelings for Tristan, but it was a time in history when men could not actually live the lives they were meant to. Will being an absolutist I think showed true courage. He had reached the point where he could no longer pretend that what they were doing was in anyway, moral. I was disappointed in Tristan when he refused to tell Clayton that the German boy was murdered. He was a coward at that point and if he truly loved Will, cared for him like he said, he would have gone to Clayton and supported what was said. I think that is a sign of selfishness on Tristan’s part.

    It was a truly well written story of love, war and self loathing. One cannot help but feel sad for Tristan and Will and the loss of both of their lives. Both men died at 19, though one was left to continue “existing” for the next 62 years.