Book Review: The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

Title: The Boy In The Striped PyjamasBook Review - The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

Author: John Boyne

Publisher: David Fickling Books

Genre: Historical Fiction

First Publication: 2006

Language: English

Major Characters: Bruno, Gretel, Shmuel, Lieutenant Kotler, Pavel Bruno’s Mother and Father, Eva Braun

Setting Place: Berlin, Germany and Auschwitz, Poland

Narration: Third person omniscient

Theme: Innocence and Ignorance, Family and Friendship, Holocaust

 

Book Summary: The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

When his father is promoted to Commandant in the German army and his family is transferred from their comfy home in Berlin to a strange place called Out-With, nine year-old Bruno has no idea of the true nature of his new surroundings. Indeed, he is also unaware of the horrors being perpetrated at the command of the German leader, the Fury, who visits the family one evening. He is unimpressed by the small man with his tiny ineffectual moustache.

The dreaded concentration camp as seen through Bruno’s eyes is simply a place of many, many long huts and the people who wear an odd sort of striped pyjamas. Starved for company, Bruno’s explorations lead him to meet a new friend, Shmuel, a boy his own age who, for reasons Bruno cannot understand, looks like a small sad bony caricature of a normal boy. Bruno’s innocence and his friendship with Shmuel will ultimately have catastrophic results on his life and that of his family’s.

 

Book Review: The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne is truly an amazing yet daunting novel that I will never forget. The author John Boyne did a masterful job of depicting the setting in such vivid detail and exposing the events in a manner that I felt a constant emotional pull as the story unfolded and impending doom lingered on the horizon.

I was recommended this novel a while back while reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, but after finishing that story and experiencing such deep sadness, I knew I couldn’t jump into another novel about the Holocaust for quite some time. I’m glad I waited because as with other works that cover this topic, distance and perspective is key. I feel the author did a grand job of juxtaposing two resounding themes in such a flawless manner; one being of the evil that was the Holocaust; against the second theme that of the innocence of a child.

“What exactly was the difference? He wondered to himself. And who decided which people wore the striped pajamas and which people wore the uniforms?”

I thought it was brilliant of Boyne to tell the story from the perspective of a nine year old German boy as you experience the events of this abominable and unthinkable time in history as a mere complicit bystander, which ultimately leaves you with a sense of hopelessness.

The story unfolds the day Bruno arrives home to discover his family is moving from Berlin to Auschwitz where his father will serve as a Commandant for the concentration camp. Bruno is forced to leave his three best friends for life and discovers that life in Auschwitz is lonely and desolate. All that changes the day he meets a boy his exact age and they begin to forge a friendship over the course of year. However, as much as he finds he and Schmuel have in common, living on opposite sides of the fence proves to have a devastating consequence to their friendship.

“The thing about exploring is that you have to know whether the thing you’ve found is worth finding. Some things are just sitting there, minding their own business, waiting to be discovered. Like America. And other things are probably better off left alone. Like a dead mouse at the back of the cupboard.”

After completing The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne, I did some research on the author and the novel and found that he not only received well deserved praise for this book, but also harsh criticism. As with any piece of literature, when words are committed to page and presented to an audience for their interpretation there will be varying degrees of acceptance and backlash. Couple that with such a sensitive topic and you’re bound to get a reaction. Well, my hats off to John Boyne for tackling a story through a unique perspective and presenting a poignant fable that as a reader I willingly suspended my reality and experienced the events in a way that exposed my emotions and feelings to such a raw level.


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The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (Vintage Childrens Classics)

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as of October 1, 2020 6:06 PM

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