2011: #74 – The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (John Boyne)

stripedpajamasBook #74 was The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne. The back of the book reads:

Berlin 1942 – 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.

This book is meant to be a fable, but I’m not sure it’s entirely successful. It is written in the voice of Bruno, the 9 year old son of a high-ranking Nazi officer, and that’s the part that didn’t work for me. Considering the audience and intentions of the author, I can forgive the historical inaccuracies (which I won’t detail here, because many others have said it better), but I can’t forgive the cute. Boyne gives Bruno a voice, vocabulary, and level of naivety  that is more appropriate for a 6 or 7 year old, and it just doesn’t ring true. And maybe I’ve just read too many Holocaust novels and memoirs, but "cute" nicknames for Hitler and Auschwitz don’t feel right to me. And the ending was so disappointingly expected,  it had no emotional impact on me at all.

It just all seemed really forced to me. I feel like the author had a message he wanted to get out — basically, "if you treat others badly, it will come back on you" — and he decided the best way to get attention would be to wrap it in the horrors of the Holocaust. It’s a marketing ploy, nothing more. And it worked! Can’t fault him for that.

I don’t think the book is entirely without merit. I think it could be useful in a classroom setting as an introduction to the Holocaust for young children. But only as an introduction, since the book is far from the reality of the situation.

There is much better Holocaust literature out there.

Other reviews:

The Wertzone: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne
Review: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas « The Literary Omnivore
eclectic / eccentric: Book Review: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
The Boy In The Striped Pajamas by John Boyne « Book Journey
From the PIE list: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

Page count: 224 (’11 total: 20,211) | Approximate word count: 44,800 (’11 total: 7,278,848)

2010: Smoke Screen (Sandra Brown)
2009: Fluke (Christopher Moore)
2008: The Face of a Stranger (Anne Perry)
2007: Love and War (John Jakes)
2006: Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
2005: Hornet Flight (Ken Follett)

5 thoughts on “2011: #74 – The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (John Boyne)

  • January 15, 2012 at 6:48 pm
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    I have heard many good thins about The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, I was even contemplating putting it on my TBR pile. Nice to here a different opinion.

    Reply
  • January 15, 2012 at 8:17 pm
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    I get what you’re saying, but I liked this one more than you did. I think I was able to accept Bruno’s naiveté more than some people.

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  • January 15, 2012 at 8:36 pm
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    This was one of the books I read over the holidays. I definitely liked it more than I did, even if I could see the ending a mile away. I could totally buy Bruno’s innocence and naivete; his voice was a bit young but then it was a completely different era and his parents definitely sheltered him as much as possible. I haven’t written my review yet; I know I am going to struggle writing it. Thanks for your honesty!

    Reply
    • January 15, 2012 at 8:44 pm
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      It might be that the age thing bothers me more because I’m acquainted with a woman who was a child in Germany during World War II, and I’ve heard how things affected her.

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    • January 15, 2012 at 9:43 pm
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      That could be. I’m not saying that the age is completely accurate. I think it was difficult to remain as innocent as Bruno when there is a war on, but I can see how it works as a fable.

      Reply

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