01 June 2011
Book Review: 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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