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The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

John Boyne

Average Review Rating Average Rating 8/10 (2 Reviews)
Book Details

Publisher : Definitions

Published : 2008

Copyright : John Boyne 2006

ISBN-10 : PB 1-86230-527-7
ISBN-13 : PB 978-1-86230-527-4

Publisher's Write-Up

What happens when innocence is confronted by monstrous evil?

Nine-year-old Bruno knows nothing of the Final Solution and the Holocaust. He is oblivious to the appalling cruelties being inflicted on the people of Europe by his country. All he knows is that he has been moved from a comfortable home in Berlin to a house in a desolate area where there is nothing to do and no one to play with. Until he meets Shmuel, a boy who lives a strange parallel existence on the other side of the adjoining wire fence and who, like the other people there, wears a uniform of striped pyjamas.

Bruno's friendship with Shmuel will take him from innocence to revelation. And in exploring what he is unwittingly a part of, he will inevitably become subsumed by the terrible process.

About the Author:
John Boyne was born in 1971, lives in Dublin and is a full-time writer. He was writer-in-residence at the University of East Anglia on the MA in Creative Writing course and spent many years working as a bookseller.

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Reader Reviews

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Review by Molly Martin (301111) Rating (8/10)
Review by Katie (150909) Rating (8/10)

Review by Molly Martin
Rating 8/10
John Boyne's The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, set in Poland about 1930-1945 commences with Bruno who is astonished one afternoon upon his homecoming from school. In his bedroom the family's maid is packing his things into a suitcase.

Bruno ponders if he has perchance behaved in a manner so appalling that his parents are sending him away. No, he is told, it is something to do with his father's job, Bruno and his parents and sister are all leaving Berlin.

Bruno is not positive precisely what his father's occupation is, nevertheless, every person says Father is a man to watch, and they say the Fury had big things in mind for Father. Of course, nine year old Bruno is very impressed; Father has an extraordinary uniform and he wears it so well. Thus, the move to Out-With was made. Bruno did not care for it much. Looking through his window Bruno did not comprehend what he was seeing.

About twenty feet along from the garden with its flowers and a bench at Out-With where Bruno and his family lived, Bruno saw there was a vast wire fence running along the span of the house, in addition, the barrier turned in at the top, where to continued extending further along in either direction.

The fence rose very far above the ground. From his window Bruno could see children. However, when his sister Gretel took a peek she realized what they were seeing was not children. They were adult men and young boys, although, they pondered where were the mothers and grandmothers and the girls.

And, everyone was wearing striped pyjamas, how unusual.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is the chronicle of Bruno and Shmuel who become best friends in spite of the reality of their very different lives. Bruno moved from Berlin, due to his Nazi Commander father's job, and the Fury who leads the country. Bruno now lives in a house next to the camp where Shmuel lives.

Viewing the Holocaust through Bruno's childish, innocent eyes moves the reader along on a riveting expedition. Few of us are unaware of history, and that is what makes the reading so compelling, and so difficult. This is a book I could not put down, even though I knew the outcome was not going to be filled with the optimism young Bruno exhibits.

The relationship formed between these two boys who are separated by nothing more, in their view, but a fence is potent to read. Bruno does not understand that he is living right next to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where Shmuel lives. Both youngsters ARE children after all. Feeling lonely and inquisitive Bruno sets out to investigate the area and that is when he meets Shmuel.

The two boys talk and become friends in this timeless narrative about two youngsters who are too youthful to be aware of what is going on in the world around them. On one side of the fence there are barracks and huts, and low square buildings and hunger and privation and smoke stacks. On the other is a home and garden.

The author's brilliance for placing the reader into the feelings and musings of a child whose father answers to the Fury -the Fuhrer- and who is sent to live at Out-With -Auschwitz, in a home on the protected side of the enclosure, is compelling.

Boyne's powerfully persuasive account that unambiguously clarifies the environment widespread in Nazi Germany during the early 1940s that made possible the wholesale ill-treatment of Eastern European Jews is bleak.

Through the eyes of Bruno, a naive nine-year-old who follows along the fence into the distance, where he, and we, come to know Shmuel, a skinny, sad faced Jewish resident who, incredibly, has Bruno's same birth date.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is the account of two boys who lose everything precious to them.

However, the reality of their loss is so very different. Ultimately Shmuel and his family will lose everything. Bruno has given up his familiar residence and way of life and his friends. The pair begins to realize the degree of their loss as they get together and sit on opposing sides of the enclosure and chat and become friends.

In some way, Bruno realises, without being told, that his father must by no means realise Bruno's association with Shmuel.

Little prepares the reader for the realism of the final scenes. The writer utilizes an intriguing method for getting his story told, written in the third person; the account is related from the point of view of a nine-year-old.
Forceful, worrying, agony producing, John Boyne's The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, is a work of fiction, which might well have taken place during that miserable period. As a parent, and a teacher, I want to reach out, gather both little boys and run away with them.

Commanding writing, memorable, powerful subject; John Boyne's The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is recommended for those who have an interest in history and for those who know little of the era, but should.
Molly Martin (30th November 2011)

Review by Katie
Rating 8/10
On the blurb of this book it states "...go on a journey with a nine-year-old boy named Bruno. (Though this isn't a book for nine-year-olds.)" This is the first thing that makes this book original from most other books aimed for younger readers; the protagonist is younger than the intended audience.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas follows Bruno as he and his family are forced to move home for his father's new job. Bruno soon discoverers a strange enclosure surrounded by a fence, where people walk about in their pyjamas all day. He befriends a boy on the other side and the reader follows them as they get to know each other, each unaware about what makes them so different to one another.

Being at the end of my teenage years, I did not expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. Although it appears to be a children's book, the issues and themes dealt with are extremely adult, for example, religion and war. John Boyne deals with these themes in a very sensitive nature by having a child narrate the story.

This is an amazing, emotional story, one of the first children's stories to bring me to tears. The ending makes your heart stop and you are left thinking about it hours after you have finished. I would recommend this to children, teenagers and adults.
Katie (15th September 2009)

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