Writing a page turner is an art. Like art it is in the eye of the beholder. For me, it is generally mass market literature.
When reading John Boyne’s “The Absolutist” I thought about Herman Wouk’s “The Winds of War”. The books are disimiliar but each are a quick read. I usually read multiple books at one time, a chapter at a time. Here I ignored the four other books I had and read this straight through.
“The Absolutist” is set in World War I. It is a lost generation novel with self-loathing heightened by closeted feelings. It traces Tristan Sadler’s relationships from childhood, through basic training and trench warfare and briefly as an octogenarian. It delves into levels of pacifism, cowardice, passive aggression, and prejudice. While these themes are handled consistent with the period, the implications are not time sensitive. It leaves unanswered the question of what is a war crime, when the war is criminal? Where is self-preservation on the moral scale?
The description of trench warfare, although not unique, is compelling and lends depth to the characters and the emotive pitch of the novel. For the squeamish, you best not eat and read some portions of the novel.
The author wrote the popular “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas”, which was turned into a film. It was a thematic view of a concentration camp, that some found offensive because of its unrealistic humanisim.
“The Absolutist” is not great literature. Nonetheless, if you find this genre attractive, you will soon be done with the book.