Book review : ‘The Boy in the striped Pyjamas’

  • Writer: John Boyne
  • Illustrator: Oliver Jeffers
  • Publishing year: 2006
  • Publisher: doubleday (Penguin Random House)
  • Edition: ten year illustrated anniversary edition
  • Number of pages: 336
  • My rating: (currently reading)

Prizes (as per John Boyne’s website: Irish Book Award Children’s Book of the
Year, Irish Book Award People’s Choice Book of
the Year, Bisto Book of the Year, Que Leer Award
Best International Novel of the Year (Spain),
Orange Prize Readers Group Book of the Year

Bruno is a nine year old boy, living in Berlin, Germany. Until the day the maid, Maria, is packing his stuff and he poses the question: what are you doing with my stuff? His mother comes into the room and tells him they are moving out of Berlin. Bruno doesn’t understand: ‘Why? Why does he have to leave his friends behind? Why does he have to move to a place where there are no fruit and vegetable stands? And can we leave his sister, Gretel, behind?’

All these changes came after a visit from ‘The Fury’ (of course, this is Adolf Hitler aka the Fuhrer) who gave an assignment to Bruno’s father, who has become ‘Commandant’! The new assignment is leadership over a group of soldiers holding guard of a camp called ‘Auschwitz’ (or as Bruno calls it: Out With)

It takes a lot of time for him to adapt to the new life, all by himself. No friends anywhere, only his annoying sister. All Bruno sees is the inside of the house he lives in and from the window in his room the camp, with people dressed in striped pyjamas: pyjama bottoms, pyjama tops and a striped pyjama cap! And apart from his family, the only people he meets are the maid, who joined them from Berlin, and Pavel, the man who comes everyday to peel potatoes and carrots and serve his family at dinner. And then there’s the Lieutenant Kotler, a young man who comes and visit the house all the time, laughing with Gretel and Bruno’s mother.

Bruno feels lonely, so lonely. So he goes exploring, along the fence (of barbed wire), which he was forbidden to do. And there, on the other side of the fence, he sees a boy. The boy, Schmuel, and Bruno meet and talk and finally become best friends. But there’s so much different from Bruno’s life. Why is Schmuel in that filthy place? Why can’t they play together? Why does he wear that striped pyjamas?

This is one of the most heart rendering stories I have read all year. The innocence of the nine year old Bruno is so endearing, but at the time so frightful. Because Bruno lives not in a world we would want to live in, he lives in a world where nothing is right, where people die for what they believe, for who they are and for standing up to those who suppress these people! We all know what happened in real life, and the things Boyne wrote might not be entirely historically correct, but man… this had such an impact on me! The way Bruno sees the world around him, the innocent way he befriends the boy on the other side of the fence… without judgment or bias… If only all of us where like Bruno… but unfortunately Bruno makes decisions that are not the best ones, leading to calamity!

I loved this, I cried over this (not really but I had a lump in my throat when I finished it), I couldn’t stop reading (I practically read it entirely in one day, in one sitting)! Next is the movie adaptation!

Oh and can I say how glad I am with my illustrated ten year anniversary edition? Those drawings, that artwork is amazing!! Kudos to Mr. Jeffers!

I wonder what else John Boyne has in store, as I have heard so much good about his books!


Amazing artwork

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