Jun 8, 2011

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

Overview from goodreads: Berlin 1942 - When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move from their home to a new house far far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence running alongside stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people he can see in the distance.

But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different to his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.

I didn't know what to expect from this book. I didn't know a whole lot about it, so I want to give you some basic details. I won't spoil anything, but if you want to go into this book without knowing anything (and there's something to be said for reading the story that way), you may not want to keep reading.

Bruno's father is a soldier in the Nazi Army and the book starts with him being promoted to essentially run Auschwitz. However, Bruno's lack of understanding is heartbreaking and endearing all at once. He refers to Auschwitz as Out-With, and calls the Fuhrer the Fury, because that's how he thinks you pronounce the words.

What really amazed me was the author's ability to capture the thought process of a nine-year old. There were times in the book when he brushed over things that happen because he wanted to talk about playing on a swing, or exploring, and while the reader understands the significance of the events, a nine-year old boy would not, and you see that throughout the novel.

"...there was nothing that made him more angry than when a grown-up laughed at him for not knowing something, especially when he was trying to find out the answer by asking questions." (Pg 50)

See what I mean? That's something I felt all the time when I was younger, but the author expressed it so clearly!

I wasn't sure how this book was going to end - you could tell it was building to something, but I was shocked at what happened. That's not to say this novel is a mystery - it just didn't end the way I expected it to which I think was good and bad - it kept me engaged all the way through the last page.

It can be hard to read books (fiction or not) about the Holocaust but I read them because it's a part of history - and these are stories (again, even if the book is fiction), that should not be forgotten. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Have you read this book? What did you think? (No spoilers in the comments please!) Did you think reading it through the eyes of a child made a difference in this story?


Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

I read this book and I loved it. I think seeing it from the eyes of a child was very powerful.

The line that really got me was when Bruno asked who all those people were (referring to the prisoners of Auschwitz) and his dad says something like, 'oh, those aren't people.'

We read this for a diversity book club at work a couple of years ago and it went over very well and was liked by many. Maybe saying like is the wrong word, but many people said reading it really impacted them, which is the sign of a great book in my opinion!

Amber said...

I actually didn't even know this was a book. Eric and I watched the movie a couple of months ago and LOVED IT! I don't know how it compares to the book since I haven't read it, but I highly recommend the movie. It was very, very well done in my eyes. And, if the ending is the same (which by your comment I'm assuming it is) I was SHOCKED by the ending of the movie!!

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