01 June 2011

Book Review: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Title: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
Author: John Boyne
Publisher/Year: David Fickling / 2007
Date Finished: 23 May 2011
Source/Format: Not sure / Print

Buy | Borrow | Accept | Avoid

The Short and Sweet of It
Bruno and his family move into a secluded house in Out-With far from home for reasons Bruno does not understand. From his bedroom window, he can see a large fence, behind which are hundreds of men, old and young. Forbidden from going anywhere near that fence, Bruno disobeys and meets a boy his own age who lives on the other side.

A Bit of a Ramble
Much has been said about this short, powerful book. Actually, the title page reads: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, a fable by John Boyne, and I think the categorization very appropriate.

At just 216, large print pages, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a quick read. But its brevity does not indicate a superficial tale. Much like with traditional fables, this one is narrow in scope; it is minimalist in plot, characters, and characterization; and the moral is deep but easy to understand.

The focus is on Bruno, a naive nine-year-old German boy, whose father is a commandant in the Nazi Party. Completely unaware of what that means, Bruno is a fresh perspective and a wake up call, reminding readers that not everyone in Germany knew the truth of the Holocaust. The story is told in third-person limited omniscient with only Bruno's thoughts and actions available to the reader. As such, the voice is that of a young boy; everything is interpreted through the mind of Bruno, and it is up to the reader to translate the events into a more logical, more knowledgeable understanding.

Bruno's innocence can be a bit unbelievable at times. While nine-year-olds are most definitely still children, in my experience, children are extraordinarily perceptive, and I honestly believe that many, if not most, children in Bruno's situation would be able to to figure out the truth of the situation. I want to make clear, however, that I do not feel this lack of understanding detrimental to the story. In fact, I think this sort of blind naivete appropriate for a fable. This sort of over exaggerated innocence really calls attention to the more willful blindness many of us have in real life.

I have not yet seen the movie, but I do have it ready to go in my Netflix queue. I actually was going to wait to review the book until I had watched the movie, but with the way my summer is going, I don't see much movie watching in the near future.

Overall I found this to be a powerful read. And it was absolutely perfect for jury duty. I read the whole shebang while waiting in an over-crowded, uncomfortable, and smelly courthouse room. Despite all of the annoyances of my setting, I was captivated by the story, and it really made the time pass quickly.

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  1. I have heard this book really packs a punch, but didn't realize it was so short! I need to do a book/movie thing with this one. (Sandy)

  2. I just bought this book at the Scholastic Book Sale, and want to get the time to read it. Unfortunately someone spoiled the ending for me, and I am not really happy about that, but I am hoping that I still enjoy the book anyway. Great review, I am glad that you liked it!

  3. I just got to this one as well and liked it. I've got the movie in my queue for a rainy day too!

  4. well done. i enjoyed this one too, despite some of it's shortcomings with innocence / total naivety.

  5. Shamefully, I didn't realize this was a book first -- will have to look for it!

  6. interesting that you say the naivety works for the fable ... that totally makes sense. I don't think exagerration is necessarily a bad thing. Great review Trisha, I've been wanting to read this for awhile. Thanks for the reminder!

  7. I sobbed through the movie, so I'd be too afraid to read this book out in public. You're a brave soul.

  8. Sandy - I think it took me a little over an hour to read, so definitely short!

    Heather - That so stupendously sucks! I hate it when people spoil the surprise for me!

    Nise - Someday I will watch the movie...someday. :)

    Meg - I really thought I was the last person to read it! I'm glad to know there are others like me out there. :)

    Lisa - At first that was a problem for me, but like I said, I think it ended up fitting the story well.

    Audra - LOL! I've had that happen to me before too so no worries!

    Ingrid - I'm glad you agree! I do think that sort of voice can be effective in certain books, and I think it worked in this one.

    Jill - Oh crap. Maybe I don't want to watch the movie. I really don't enjoy crying.... Then again, I know what's going to happen, so maybe I'll be okay...

  9. I watched this movie, though I haven't read the book (and admit that after the movie, not sure I want to read the book). I didn't know it was labeled as a "fable," and so like you, I found Bruno's innocence and naivete unbelievable and well over the top. I don't think there can have been *that* many people (especially living so close to a camp) that didn't know what was going on.

  10. I agree, this is a brilliant story. I think the film is very good translation too, but not quite as powerful as the book. (Google won't let me log in for some reason) mummazappa from The Book Nerd Club.

  11. I haven't read this yet. Excellent review. So how was jury duty?

  12. I came to this book fully prepared to love it. Although the publisher insists that all reviewers not reveal its story, the back cover promises "As memorable an introduction to the subject as The Diary of Anne Frank." And indeed the writing is gripping.Thanks

  13. I did think this one was powerful, but I agree with you, his innocence was a bit too unbelievable at times.

  14. I'm interested in this one. Thanks for the great review and letting me know I could find it on netflix.

  15. I'm glad this one hit the spot for you. I was too annoyed with Bruno, unfortunately, to really feel the power of the novel. And double yuck for jury duty. Unfortunately I don't have the ability to block out background noises to read in public or when the TV is on so I hate "waiting" situations like that.

  16. I never knew what this book was about, and now that I do, I definitely want to read it. Thanks for the review.

  17. Great review Trisha, I've been wanting to read this for awhile. Thanks for the reminder!

  18. I've only seen the movie, and it made me cry. I hope to read it someday. I think your comments about Bruno's innocence not being believable all the time but being important really make sense. I'll link to your review on War Through the Generations.

  19. I thought this was a fabulous book. The ending left me stunned.


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