The Boy in the Striped Pajamas – John Boyne

Happy Saturday, friends! I hope you all have enjoyed your weekend thus far. I’ve spent my weekend reading while binge watching Law and Order SVU…. Obviously, it’s been a successful weekend for me. I just finished the 10th-anniversary edition of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas written by John Boyne. Talk about a twister!

To give you a little background on me, one of my favorite genres to read are WWI/WWII fiction/nonfiction books… more specifically, books that focus on the Holocaust and Nazis. I’m utterly fascinated with the mentality of the time. This was what drove me to purchase this book. It just happened to be a bonus that it was also on my reading list.

Alright, so this book is about 9-year-old Bruno, and his family’s move from their comfortable Berlin home to the terrible Out-With (presumed to be Auschwitz) during WWII. The relocation of this 4 person family was strongly suggested by the all powerful “Fury” (or as we know him, the Führer) so the Commandant Nazi Officer Ralph (Bruno’s father) is able to oversee the camp. Despite the entire family’s disapproval, nobody dares go against the Fury. 

So, I’m going to start with what I didn’t necessarily care for… Knowing what nationalism meant to the country at the time I found it unlikely that Bruno had known so little about what was going on in his country. The boy was enrolled in school before they moved, where I understand school at the time frequently had lessons on German nationalism and Hilter. It was also unbelievable to me that at the age of 9 he was not already being prepped for Hitler Youth, especially since he was the Commandant Nazi Officer’s son. It was typical for boys to be already in classes, Deutsches Jungvolk (German Young People), at the age of 10 getting prepped for Hitler Jugend (Hitler Youth) where they could enroll at age 13. 

Building off that idea that I disliked how naive Bruno was about his country, I also hated that he couldn’t connect the dots anywhere else, and that he couldn’t provide more information. He was given information constantly that he just brushed off as unalarming (Shmuel’s black eye is one example). It just made him seem so uninterested in the world around him if it didn’t directly connect to him.

I’m curious what happened with Lieutenant Kotler… Obviously there was an affair (whether emotional or physical), and I was so curious what happened with that. Also, was I the only one disturbed by mom and daughter lusting for the same dude? Ew.

It’s been pointed out by others, but this type of story would be impossible to had happened. Children of that age would have most likely have been killed immediately upon arrival to Auschwitz since it was a work camp and children were of no use to the Nazis there. Since this was just a work of historical fiction, this knowledge didn’t effect me.

Do not be fooled, I really enjoyed this story. It was clever! Of course a young child would be interested in exploring, and making friends! Boyne was brilliant to take that idea and create this fictional story for Bruno and Shmuel to befriend one another. Honestly, the two boys exploring their friendship was lovely. I wish that Boyne had included more girth to the book with additional interactions between the two. At the end, it is clear they are friends, but a lot could have happened in a year! It would have been cool to see the friendship grow.

To be honest, to me this book really read as a horror story than anything (which I loved)… The punishment Bruno paid for his curiosity was immense. His ignorance of the world around him due to his inability to look outside his own desires was tragic. The entire book came across to me like a cautionary tale to little children… a fable if you will….. Look at the key things it consistently points out: Listen to your parents, do not go where you do not belong, do not lust for the “better yard” of the fence line, and all that glitters is not gold. Just like all characters in fables, Bruno learned his lesson eventually. 

The ending to this book was surprising. I would have liked *more* on the family after the fact, but I loved Bruno’s chapter. Most readers, if not all, know all about the trouble he is putting himself in, and where he is headed. Its suspenseful, and its a bit unexpected that things turned how they did. I loved the realness that Boyne kept with the character. Of course Bruno was oblivious through the entire book! I love when authors have an unwavering commitment to character personalities.

The book comes from the view point of many different characters, but the loudest voice stands to be Bruno. I liked this method of narration because I was able to see into what other characters were thinking on occasion. This book also is written for a younger crowd, and would be pretty easy to read for any age (at least anyone that has the mentality to grasp the heavier subjects in there…)

It’s a good story if you are into the same type of books that I am, and I would definitely suggest it to others. It’s one of those books that I can say I enjoyed it, but I don’t find myself shouting from the roof-tops about it. Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

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