The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas: John Boyne

★★★★

Oh good heavens. As you know, I’ve wanted to read more John Boyne and, when looking for something short to read between longer books, I spotted this. ‘Yes,’ I said to myself, ‘I know what it’s about. It won’t be fun, I know that. But everyone says how important it is. And besides. It’s a children’s book. It can’t be that bad.’ A day later, I was staring in disbelief at the final page, wondering how on earth I could ever explain this book to my non-existent children and feeling as if I’d been punched in the solar plexus.

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Crippen: John Boyne

★★★★

A Novel of Murder

In July 1910, the SS Montrose sets sail from Antwerp on her regular crossing to Canada, and the first-class passengers begin the cautious task of getting to know one another. The pushy Mrs Antoinette Drake and her daughter Victoria are, evidently, going to be trouble; so is the half-feral Tom, nephew of the mysterious Matthieu Zela who has bespoken the Presidential Suite. But there are some amenable characters on board too. Martha Hayes is a quiet spinster hoping to make a new life for herself in Canada; and the self-effacing John Robinson and his seventeen-year-old son Edmund are also escaping to a new world. Meanwhile, back in London, a horrific crime is discovered. Cora Crippen has been murdered and buried in tiny pieces in the cellar of her house. Her husband, Dr Crippen, has absconded with his mistress. But where can they be? And will there be enough time for Inspector Dew of Scotland Yard to track them down?

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The Absolutist: John Boyne

★★★★

It is 1919 and Tristan Sadler arrives in Norwich to meet Marian Bancroft, the sister of his friend and comrade Will Bancroft. Tristan has come to return the letters Marian wrote to her brother, which he has kept ever since Will’s death. And yet he hasn’t made this journey solely for the sake of restoring a piece of her family history. There are things Tristan needs to say; amends he needs to make. Will Bancroft didn’t die in action, but was shot by a firing squad of his own peers, hauled up on charges of cowardice after proclaiming himself an ‘absolutist’ – the firmest kind of conscientious objector. Tristan needs to tell Marian that her brother wasn’t a coward; but he also hopes, in meeting her, to find some closure for his own traumatic experiences on the Western Front.

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