The Boy In The Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
It is Berlin 1942. When 9-year-old Bruno comes home from school one day he finds that the house maid is in his room packing up his belongings. In short notice he finds out that his father has received a promotion and the family will moving to a new home far away. Bruno is devastated as his best friends in the world are here and he loves his neighborhood and loves to explore, however there is no changing the plan that has been set in motion.
Along with his mother, and 12-year-old sister Gretel, they make the move. Their new home is large and creepy. There are no neighborhood kids to play with and nothing to do. Out of boredom Bruno decides to go on an adventure and discover what lies beyond the property where his father has forbidden him to go…. and here is where he finds Shmuel, a skinny, dirty, little Jewish boy.
Shmuel is also 9, in fact he was born on the same day as Bruno! Bruno is excited and is already planning adventures in his mind of what he and Shmuel can do together. Yet this seems to be a problem as Shmuel is on the other side of a large sharp wired fence and for some reason is always wearing striped pajamas, much like all the other men and boys behind this fence.
As Shmuel tells his story of being taken from their home and made to live in a one room area with another family making 11 people living in the room, Bruno feels Shmuel must be lying, surely that many people in such a small space is impossible!
Bruno continues to sneak out to see Shmaul and brings him food which he devours, and they talk and talk and become fast friends. While Bruno does not understand his fathers job, he does know that his father would not approve of this friendship so he keeps his adventures with Shmaul a secret.
Until one day Bruno and Shmaul have an idea… an idea that brings this book to a conclusion that pretty much stopped my heart and put a whole new twist on Holocaust literature.
I seen the movie, The Boy In The Striped Pajamas before I read this book. That is usually a taboo thing for me to do, but I had never read the story and one day thought it would be good to see the movie on Netflix. The movie shocked me. How can I think I know what a book is about but I really know nothing?
In short time I had secured the book from my local library as I always appreciate the book more than the movie (well – almost always). Yes time went by and I renewed the book twice and still had not read it. In fact this week it was in the car to go back to the library unread…. and then when I was going to the chiropractor this week I needed something to read in the waiting room and guess what the only book was I had in the car? Yup…. this one.
So – between the three appointments I had this week, I devoured this book to the point of no return…. and I mean that literally…. when I went to the library and turned in an audio I had completed, this book remained in the car. No return not then anyway….
The Boy In The Striped Pajamas is a devastating read. Lets just put that out there now. I am amazed how we as human beings can treat each other so poorly – be so mislead in what we think is right… it breaks my heart. Time and time again you can read fictional stories like this (that may as well have been real) as well as true stories that you wish were fiction.
Hannah at Word Lily has been posting a blurb out of a book called True Grit, every day for lent. Talk about your frightening statistics and some of them are just what I am talking about here… the things we as people do to other people – some due to race, background, gender, faith, where they live, the list goes on and on…
and so… back to the book. I give John Boyne so much credit for writing this. It is a hard story. It is a maddening story. I was just as impressed with the book as I was with the movie. The innocence of Bruno is perfect as he meets daily with his friend and not understanding that Shmaul is in a concentration camp – or even what that would mean.
What this book shows is a friendship that no fences can separate. It is a heartbreaking innocent story that could not have been told as well if the main character had been an adult. It had to be a child… the innocence of childhood that makes this work…. and work well.
The movie shocked me…. the book broke me.
A POWERFUL read of historical fiction that will knock personal prejudices down to rubble.
The 2011 WHERE Are You Reading Map has been updated to include The Boy In The Striped Pajamas
I borrowed (and borrowed and borrowed) this book from my local library