Wednesday, 30 June 2010

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Author: John Boyne
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 216
Published: 2006
First Line: "One afternoon, when Bruno came home from school, he was surprised to find Maria, the family's maid -- who always kept her head bowed and never looked up from the carpet -- standing in his bedroom, pulling all of his belongings out of the wardrobe and packing them in four large wooden crates, even the things he'd hidden at the back that belonged to him and were nobody else's business."

Synopsis: This is a compelling novel that looks at the Holocaust and it's effects as seen through the eyes of Bruno, a 9-year old German boy whose father is a Commandant in Hitler's army. When Bruno's father is sent to be in charge of Auschwitz the family moves with him. Bruno realizes his father has an important position in the army but doesn't understand exactly what his father does for a living.

Bruno's life at Auschwitz is dull for him until he goes exploring one day along the fence. That day he meets a boy who is the same age as Bruno but is very thin, has a shaved head ... and is wearing striped pajamas. Day after day the two boys secretly meet and talk about their lives. They share a naivety about their world and what is happening around them. Quickly the boys become best friends and learn to depend on their daily talks.

My Thoughts: This was a very quick read for me even though it dealt with such a very serious topic and a horrendous period of time. It felt like this book only skimmed the surface of the atrocities that happened in the Holocaust but I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that it's a look into the life of a 9 year old boy. It's what he saw and how he understood what he saw and lived through. I found it sadly endearing how this naive boy consistently mispronounces two words throughout the book. Instead of Fuhrer (ie Hitler) he calls him The Fury and instead of Auschwitz concentration camp he calls it "Out With". Bruno at times comes off as a spoiled brat ... but I think it shows how innocent he is to the horrible acts that were happening to the Jews under his father's 'care'. He has no idea the kind of life that Schmuel has behind the fence. Just shows how innocent this boy was to the atrocities that occured literally in his backyard.

I also found it really interesting how innocent children, namely 9 year old Bruno and his 13 year old sister try to wrap their heads around some of the changes in their lives as they live in "Out With". Namely what their father actually does for a living as well as the reasons for the huge fence and the emaciated look of the Jews.

This is a very sensitive book that deals with a topic that should not and cannot be forgotten. It's filled with innocence, despair, hope and friendship and ends with such a dramatic ending that it I literally could not believe it and had to re-read it again and again. Touching ... a must read that can be used to envoke great discussions with older children and adults alike.

My Rating: 4/5 stars

1 comment:

Aleisha said...

I really liked this book too, it was a really innocent way of looking at such a horrible time and events. The ending made me gasp! out loud, it was fantastic. And it was so sad, but I was compelled to read it, I couldn't put it down at all. Really great book.

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