John Boyne’s “The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas”

Heil Hitler,” he said, which, he presumed, was another way of saying, “Well, goodbye for now, have a pleasant afternoon.”

A review of John Boyne’s “The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas”,  by Marthe Wouters

1942; Bruno (nine years old) lives in Berlin. When his family moves to the countryside, Bruno has to leave everything behind for this unknown place. Arriving at the new house he finds out that there are no other children, no other families and no other interesting things. It’s just Bruno and his family. When Bruno starts exploring the new area (he calls himself a real explorer) he meets this other boy, also nine years old, called Schmuell, wearing striped pyjamas. During Bruno’s stay at the countryside he gets to know Shmuel more and more and they become best friends.

Bruno is really our typical nine year-old; he loves to play with his friends and he loves adventure stories. During the book, the reader gets to know Bruno very well and how naive he is. Although Bruno observes what is going on around him, with his father (who is a commandant at the nearby prison camp -Auschwitz, Out-with called by Bruno, where Shmuel is staying) and the soldiers around his home, he doesn’t really understand what’s going on and what it all means. And that’s just the facinating thing about this book; it is so disturbing that Bruno really has no clue what is going on, while, for the reader, it’s cristalclear; Shmuel is jewish and has to work at this concentrationcamp, while Bruno has a beautiful life with his family.
It’s great to see the similarities between Bruno & Shmuel and how these things blossom into a great friendship; both naive and both interested in the same things.

This story, about two boys who are (in the eyes of Hitler) so different but at the same time so much the same has reached people all around the world (for example this fan, who made a whole blog about Bruno). In 2008, director Mark Herman made it into a movie, with Bruno played by Asa Butterfield. Of course, most of the people think the book is better than the movie and that is really what John Boyne wants. The movie is a tribute to the book and not really a separate product.(for exemple;Bruno’s parents are named Ralf and Elsa, but in the credits of the film they are listed as ‘Mother’ and ‘Father’. This is a tribute to the novel, in which the narrative focuses solely on Bruno’s point of view).

This is a book everyone should read. Not only because it is such a beautiful story, but because it is written in such a different way. It is easy to read (what would you expect from a nine yeal-old boy), but at the same time it is difficult to read; all the things that happen are horrifying and Bruno doesn’t even know. What keeps the reader interested is that Boyne stays so close to Bruno’s nature and the book doesn’t result into terrible details of the holocaust and the prison camps.

Nevertheless, I loved reading the book. But do not read the end in public; tearsdrops will result into a waterfall falling of you nose.

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