Book Review: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

boy-in-the-striped-pyjamasWhat’s it about?2012 WBN Logo

Lines may divide us, but hope will unite us . . .

Nine-year-old Bruno knows nothing of the Final Solution and the Holocaust. He is oblivious to the appalling cruelties being inflicted on the people of Europe by his country. All he knows is that he has been moved from a comfortable home in Berlin to a house in a desolate area where there is nothing to do and no one to play with. Until he meets Shmuel, a boy who lives a strange parallel existence on the other side of the adjoining wire fence and who, like the other people there, wears a uniform of striped pyjamas.

Bruno’s friendship with Shmuel will take him from innocence to revelation. And in exploring what he is unwittingly a part of, he will inevitably become subsumed by the terrible process.

My thoughts

Having seen the movie adaptation a while ago I was pleased to see this book on the World Book Night reading list and was keen to read it and see how true the movie was to the book.

Despite what I’ve read since reading the book I have to say I read this book in an afternoon and I really enjoyed it.

I liked that it was narrated by Bruno, yes he’s very naive but hey…he’s 9. I thought that the things he came out with were realistic for a child of his age.

“Sit down children”, he said, indicating the two large leather armchairs that they were usually told not to sit in when they had occasion to visit Father’s office because of their grubby mitts.

This quote reminded me of me and my younger brother, we were always fighting and as I was the oldest I would always win…He eventually got his revenge though.

“Gretel hits me sometimes” said Bruno. “She’s my sister”, he added. “And a Hopeless Case. But I’ll be bigger and stronger than she is and she won’t know what’s hit her then.”

I made the mistake of looking at other reviews on Goodreads and there were some good points made, such as; Bruno as a 9 year old child growing up in Berlin would surely have heard the words Jew and Aushwitz. It seems wrong to say it but I liked the way he never got the word Aushwitz correct and pronounced it ‘Out-With’ and called The Fuhrer The Fury.

Some of reviews I’ve read imply that this novel belittles the Holocaust, personally I don’t see how any fiction book is going to achieve that.  It’s not a biography or an autobiography or a reference book, let us remember it is a work of fiction. At the end of the day, it’s a book that’s based around Aushwitz and the Holocaust, it’s not meant to be an accurate historical documentary, if that’s what you want don’t read this and go and get a history book. I took from this book that it was meant to be an introduction to the atrocities for younger readers and not meant as a historical reference. Surely anything that is read and highlights what happened should be met with a more positive light?

Read this if you’re looking for a heart-wrenching story of friendship between 2 children against all the odds and in the face of adversity that doesn’t end well for all involved.

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