Category: John Boyne

book review – The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas


This is one of the books that manages to cross over from teenage fiction into the adult category. Indeed it was a friend who recommended John Boyne‘s book as something worth reading.

In many respects it takes a reader to come to this with a knowledge of the holocaust for it to work with complete effectiveness. The story of Bruno and his family moving to a concentration camp is full of gaps that an informed reader will fill in. Not just about the reason for his father going to become commander at Auschwitz but also the affair between a young prison guard and Bruno’s mother.

But where it works well is the central story about Bruno and his friendship with the boy in the striped pyjamas. Because his parents have told him almost nothing about what is going on – the view of the world with the gaps left unfilled – he makes a fatal mistake based on complete ignorance.

The ending of the book is one that has real power as does the aftermath with a hint that one of Hitler’s loyal stormtroopers has become disillusioned by the realisation that what they happily did to millions might have been done to one of their own.

In many ways some of the devices used get tiresome towards the end but if the aim of this is to get a child to ask you as a parent what is happening then getting the chance to answer that question is perhaps valuable in itself. No doubt the film, which I haven’t seen, is more expansive and slightly more literal in terms of spelling it out.

Just as with the only other crossover book I have read, The Curious Incident..by Mark Haddon, this is sometimes too obvious for an adult reader. But it is worth getting through because if nothing else it reminds you of the horrors of history and reinforces the memory which makes it harder for something as horrific as the final solution to happen again.

book review – The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas


This is one of the books that manages to cross over from teenage fiction into the adult category. Indeed it was a friend who recommended John Boyne‘s book as something worth reading.

In many respects it takes a reader to come to this with a knowledge of the holocaust for it to work with complete effectiveness. The story of Bruno and his family moving to a concentration camp is full of gaps that an informed reader will fill in. Not just about the reason for his father going to become commander at Auschwitz but also the affair between a young prison guard and Bruno’s mother.

But where it works well is the central story about Bruno and his friendship with the boy in the striped pyjamas. Because his parents have told him almost nothing about what is going on – the view of the world with the gaps left unfilled – he makes a fatal mistake based on complete ignorance.

The ending of the book is one that has real power as does the aftermath with a hint that one of Hitler’s loyal stormtroopers has become disillusioned by the realisation that what they happily did to millions might have been done to one of their own.

In many ways some of the devices used get tiresome towards the end but if the aim of this is to get a child to ask you as a parent what is happening then getting the chance to answer that question is perhaps valuable in itself. No doubt the film, which I haven’t seen, is more expansive and slightly more literal in terms of spelling it out.

Just as with the only other crossover book I have read, The Curious Incident..by Mark Haddon, this is sometimes too obvious for an adult reader. But it is worth getting through because if nothing else it reminds you of the horrors of history and reinforces the memory which makes it harder for something as horrific as the final solution to happen again.

The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas – post III

The ending of this book is a shock because it is set up for a number of potential endings. The one that sis chosen is one of the most horrific once you have taken it in. But in a way it needs to be. Not just for the sake of getting the message home but because the book lacks that little bit have pace.

It seems to plod along with you always wanting the gears to change. When they finally do it is with just a few pages left. The only negative about this book is that question of pace. Things come to a head only at the very end and the comments I had from other readers has always been about the pace.

Some found the gap filling style also annoying but that didn’t bother me. In some ways this was a holocaust take with a twist and although the twist does start to get stretched the story is one that is so important to stick with that you do go to the end.

A review will follow soon…

The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas – post II

The way the book is written there are gaps all over the place that you are expected to fill in. For some reason this reminds me a bit of the Secret Diary of Adrian Mole but it has been years since I read that so I might be wrong.

Although the style is akin to the Mole Diary the content is nowhere near it as Bruno makes a friend across the other side of the wire and starts to get a slight understanding of the treatment that some of the Jews are being given by the Germans around them.

But he is still light years away from understanding everything around him and his innocence, often portrayed as arrogance in his replies to others, reveals his lack of knowledge.

In some respects he is a victim but of course nowhere near those on the other side of the wire and the purpose of telling the story through the eyes of a child is clearly not just to appeal to a younger readership but also to unfold the concentration camp world in a much more innocent and simple way.

Last chunk tomorrow…

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas – post I

I was encouraged to pick this up by someone who had read it in one sitting with memories of a trip to Auschwitz still fresh in his mind. As my Jewish friend remarked “Although this is a book for children it is something that you can get through quickly but really hits you.”

So it was with a mixture of expectations I started this and from the very beginning it was heading in a direction that was clearly designed to make you think.

You follow the story of Bruno and his family being forced to leave Berlin and you assume they are Jewish but it turns out to be the exact opposite and with that trick delivered so brilliantly you are hooked. Of course the Enid Blyton type cliffhanger endings to each chapter help but this is designed to let the reader wander some way in front and guess the story but can you guess the ending? Not yet.

More tomorrow…