Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne


Ah, the mystery book. The book without a blurb (or really, a blurb that says "we can't give you a blurb because that would spoil the surprise". Well guess what? I guessed the surprise! Pretty darn early too!

The book tells the story of Bruno, a nine-year-old whose family moves from their home in Berlin to a new place, a place with no one to play with and only a fence. Behind the fence there are people, many people, all wearing striped pyjamas all day long. Bruno's dad is a soldier, a high-ranking officer, and in secret Bruno makes friends with a boy of his age wearing striped pyjamas.

Boyne takes us inside Bruno's thoughts as he struggles to make sense to it all. Doing so, he exposes the ridiculousness of it all, if only it weren't true.

I don't know... I didn't hate the book, but it wasn't such an experience people were making it sound like. It wasn't bad, but it really wasn't much to write home either. I liked how the point of view was that of a child, how we followed Bruno as he tried to make sense of the world around him but the story was, in effect, rather bland.

The only character I had any feeling towards was the mother, it was somehow really captivating to fill in the blanks in her life.


I already knew the ending before I started, a friend of mine told me about the movie version a while ago. So there was no surprise in it for me either. I actually did like the book. I liked the naivite of the text and the fact that it was very different from your regular WW II novel since it was written from a child's point of view.

I read the book in a plane on my way to meet a friend. The trip didn't go exactly smoothly and I was really tired and stressed out once I finally made my last connection. So I sat down to my seat and read the book. The business man next to me was looking quite uncomfortable since even though I didn't burst in to tears I was looking like I might just do that any given moment. The look on his face was so hilarious though that it helped me get over it. ;)

I liked the fact that Bruno was not a hero of the story. He was just a child who lived during the war and who happened to have a dad very high up in the nazi command. The way he would try to take some food for Schmuel and got a little peckish on the way and ended up eating it himself was just a thing a child would do. From our point of view that know from history what it meant to be living at the camps of Auschwitz it's both funny and sad to read a text from a child's point of view who doesn't get it and is jealous because the other boy has so many friends and he has none.


Well, I just found it hard to believe that a) Bruno really wouldn't get it during the year they talked with Schmuel, and b) that his dad (and everyone else) didn't try to brainwash him into the Nazi way of thinking, especially after his sister got interested in the war.

It was a fairytale-like simplification of a story.

But forgetting the historical inaccuracies the story was still rather blah for me. I didn't connect to Bruno in any ways, I didn't find him endearing. Mostly just silly. But I guess most nine-year-olds seem silly to us, if we really think about it.

It was well written, I'll give Boyne that, but while all stories about WWII are depressing to read and you know the ending, I can't help but feel that this was more a book for kids than for adults. Why the hype?


I think this is one of those books that we just get differently. I didn't find Bruno endearing, but I didn't feel like I had to either. I think I've been hanging around kids more than you lately and therefore get the child's way of thinking that I find was really well portrayed in this book. The whole exploring thing actually reminded me of my own childhood when me and my next door neighbour did the same thing.

The reason why I liked the book was exactly the same why you don't; the simplification, the naivite, the childishness. I just could picture it all, so to me it felt real.

So our dear readers, it looks like we do not agree on the book. What did you think?

Afterthought by ii:
Good discussion questions, background of the author and some not-so-loving reviews (which I agreed with!) at LitLovers.

1 comment:

  1. This was a fun review to read, I really enjoy how you both went back and forth, and it was fun to read the differing opinions. :)