Sunday, 7 April 2013

The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas

Author: John Boyne

Published: 2006

What They Say: 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.

What Elaine Says: The likelihood is you've heard of, if not read this book already.  I'm a little late to the party on this one. While I'd heard numerous good things about it, I felt it may be a little too emotive for me.  A children's book about the Holocaust told from the point of view of a 9 year old has the potential to be so!  However having recently read Viktor E. Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning" (reviewed here) it seemed an appropriate time to give it a go.

Being a children's book, a lot is (naturally) left unsaid. Nine year old Bruno is uprooted from Berlin when his father, a Commandant in Hitler's army, is moved to a position running a place Bruno knows only as "Out-With". While what happens is not surprising, it makes it none the less deeply moving. 

Hailed as a must-read, Boyne's book is definitely going to make you think.  However, I do have one quite big issue with it.  I didn't actually find it believable. If Bruno is remotely as intelligent as he seems to be then surely he would have sensed something was going on.  Ultimately though, Bruno's convenient naivety doesn't really impact the narrative.  The ending of this little book was always going to be same. There would be no point to it otherwise.

One thing I do agree with the rest of the world on is this, for the sake of a few hours out of your life, this book is definitely worth a read.

Elaine's Rating: 7/10

“It reminds me of how grandmother always had the right costume for me to wear. You wear the right outfit and you feel like the person you're pretending to be.” 


  1. hello! i agree - i didn't find it believable either. i also found the book pitched rather oddly, as if the author had got his audience wrong....

    1. Hi Sian, glad it's not just me!

      Also, I think I agree with you with regards to how it's pitched. In my opinion the book is clearly marketed towards children but the writing relies on an adults knowledge of the circumstances. Which means what is really there for a child? I'm guessing the main purpose of this being aimed at children is to start discussion. Read, discuss, re-read. Possibly the idea behind a lot of schools latching onto this.

      Sorry that doesn't make much sense. I've spent too much time on the computer tonight.