(Other Press, Paperback, 9781590515525, 320pp.)
Publication Date: July 10, 2012
Tristan Sadler, a veteran of the fighting in France during World War I, travels to Norwich, England to deliver a packet of letters to the sister of his dead comrade in arms, Will Bancroft. Thus starts this amazing novel by John Boyne. As a reader and lover of historical novels, I think that I have this plot all figured out as Boyne alludes to the relationship between these two 18 year-old men. Ha, I am not even close to being correct; in fact, I am very far away from predicting the ending to this poignant story.
Boyne’s beautiful writing style will keep you reading and reading. Your reactions to the descriptions of life in the trenches will be heart wrenching, but you will not be able to put this book down. Let me share a short portion with you. Boyne is describing a disgusting scene in which Tristan is struggling to lift buckets of mud and fecal matter out of the British trenches in a heavy rainstorm:
“Keep at it man!” shouts a voice to my left and whoever it is – Hobbs?- pumps more water away as I drive my bucket deep and deeper again, lifting the water out, sending it on its way, reaching down for more. And then a heavy body, running too fast and slipping in the mud, curses, rights himself and pushed past me and I fall, knocked head over feet, my face in the sludge and the water and the s**t, and I spit out the noxious earth as I place a hand down to lever myself up, but my hand seems to sink deeper and deeper into the mud and I think, How can this be, how can my life have descended into such filth and squalor? I used to go swimming on warm afternoons at the public baths with my friends.”
For me, good authors write books that quickly pull me into a story where I feel I am sharing the experience, that encourage me to want to know more about the time period or events happening in the book, and that touch my heart and soul and make me think as I read them. John Boyle does all three of these things.
Readers in Lancaster County are in for a treat in April when John Boyne comes to the spring fund raiser by the Friends of the Library. I cannot wait to meet him and listen to him talk about his books. He’ll be speaking as at a lunch fundraiser for the libraries of Lancaster County on April 22 at Cavalry Church. Tickets will be $40 and will include a copy of his newest book (to be published in the US on April 10)- The House of Special Purpose.
This novel will also be our historical book group selection for January 2013. Read this book and join our group for the discussion. We will meet at Aaron’s Books on Sunday, January 6th at 3:00 PM.