Why I read this book

After seeing a few short clips of a film, which was called, 'The boy in the striped pyjamas' I made a mental note to check it out. It looked an interesting film and something that was a little different. I have seen the film recently but, before I could watch it, the book found its way into my home.

The book had been passed around colleagues at work, who had all as one proclaimed it to be moving piece of writing, and so I sat down eagerly to read the book. I was unsure whether or not The Boy in the striped Pyjamas would be a good read or not. It is a slender book, which I knew I could read in no time at all. However, I knew that the subject matter might be a hard one face.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

The book touches on the Nazi Concentration camps, World War Two, The Nazis treatment of the Jews and the final solution. I say touches because, although these matters feature greatly in the plot, they are in some ways secondary. The story is actually about a short period in one young, German boy's life.

This book is actually classified as a children's book and in many ways that was evident from the start. However, this is not meant in any sort of derogatory way. The print is a little larger than most adult's books and the plot is written in a childlike way. As most of the story is related by a character who is a boy this seems perfectly normal when you are reading.

The story

Bruno is the young German narrator. It is 1942 and Bruno is just nine years old. As a German child, with a father working in the military, the war has touched him slightly. However initially is in a very slight way.

Bruno has a comfortable family life in Berlin. He and his family live in relative wealth and luxury. His Father, who is a German Army Officer, seems destined for great things. Bruno also shares his home with his mother, his twelve-year-old sister, plus an assortment of staff.

This happy settled childhood is not to last though. The whole household is moved from this stability, when the 'Fury' promotes Bruno's father. The fury is in fact the Fuhrer. This incorrect name is what Bruno thinks he hears someone saying. Their next home is in Poland at a camp called 'Outwith', or as it is really called Auschwitz.

Towards the end of the book, I could see what was probably going to happen but still found the text compulsive reading. I was left with what was an enjoyable reading experience, if that is the right thing to call one that was so poignant.

In its childlike way, this book managed to show all of the human suffering endured at such German war concentration camps, without actually detailing anything very specific or gruesome.

The demoralising and dehumanising of the Jewish race was plain to see. Yet this book remains very innocent. I guess this is because most of what is really going on escapes Bruno. For him, the world is still a place of play and adventure and he cannot quite understand what is going on behind the fence of 'Outwith'.

He actually starts to envy his new friend, Shumel, who is a prisoner in the camp. Shumel is the same age as Bruno but much less well nourished and he is really out of bounds. Their secret friendship is sweet is many ways. Bored with his daily life Bruno makes his way to the camp's wire each day to meet with the boy in the striped pyjamas. This is what Bruno thinks the boy is wearing.

It looks like Shumel is having so much fun that Bruno wants to visit the camp. Of course, this would never be allowed. Will he visit the camp? You will have to read the book or watch the film to find out.

Additional information

My copy of this book was a mere 216 pages and I read it in just over a day. It was very easy to read, although not necessarily a comfortable read.

Many of the atrocities are more hinted at than clearly portrayed. Of course, for an adult, who has some knowledge of history, it is all too plain what is going on.

This book is by a relatively young Irish author called John Boyne. Having read this book, I will certainly look out for others by him. Despite its classification as a children's read, I would say that it would only be suitable for older children, on the whole, and then only some of them. It may not have the out and out violence of some books but the threat that it portrays is very real and nasty.

The film was just as sad as the book. It did portray more of the horrors and was classified a PG for parental guidance.


ISBN 978-1-862-30527-4