The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas – John Boyne
Oh my word, what an incredibly moving story. It is only 212 pages long, such a quick and easy read. But you must read it.
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.
The book is narrated by Bruno, who is 9, so the language is very simple. He refers to Hitler as the Fury and Auschwitz as Out-With because he doesn’t know how to pronounce the words correctly.
I loved this book. I loved Bruno’s naivety and his sense of always wanting to do the right thing. He frequently says things like (para-phrasing here):
“I try and tell the truth, as that is what I have been told to do.”
He is a complete angel, with no idea what is going on just across the fence.
His friendship with Shmuel is beautiful. Honestly, the only word I have to describe their relationship is beautiful. One is suffering hardships, the other thinks he is, but the way they chat and support each other is amazing. He tries to help him and although all they do is chat, a special bond is formed, a bond for life – a bond until death.
There are some comical lines in the book too, such as referring to his older sister as The Hopeless Case because that is what he has heard her called! These innocent comments make the book that much lighter to read.
The end was so sad. I did see it coming, but that did not spoil the story at all. It was heart-breaking how this little 9 year old who didn’t understand what was going on came face-to-face with the horrors of the concentration camps and what Hitler was doing. I don’t want to give the ending away, but it suited the book, however sad it was.
The Holocaust is such a horrible time in history, but Boyne has addressed the issue with sensitivity and care. I don’t think anyone can be insulted by this book or the issue. It seems well researched and I think Boyne has taken great care to reflect the horror in a delicate way.
This book is actually a Year 8 (age 12-13) text at the school Mum works at, so from that point of view it is not a hard read, but raises questions and topics to talk about.
I loved this book, and am touched by it. This is a must-read.