The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
Berlin 1942Bruno is nine years old. His father is making them leave their wonderful house in Berlin and move to Out-With, a horrible old place in the middle of nowhere. It's a bad decision. Bruno can see this, but apparently everyone else can't. But the Fury has great things in mind for his father and Bruno guesses that's a good thing.
Out-With is just as terrible as Bruno thought it would be. Until he meets Shmuel - the little boy in the striped pajamas.
What exactly was the difference? he wondered to himself. And who decided which people wore the striped pajamas and which people wore the uniforms?
This is absolutely heart-breaking. The simplicity of it all; the main character’s reactions to everything. Absolutely, positively tear-inducing.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas follows 9-year-old Bruno as he moves from his comfortable home in Berlin to his new home at the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz as a promotion for his father’s – a leading Nazi official – job. When Bruno goes exploring in the forest, he finds a fence of barbed wire, and, behind it, a little boy just his age – wearing a pair of striped pajamas.
As their friendship grows day by day, Bruno doesn’t realize that it may turn out to have unspeakable consequences.
By no means is this an overly complex or mind-boggling plot, but it’s simplicity is one of the things I really enjoyed. There’s a saying – “sometimes less is more” – and I definitely feel that saying applies perfectly to this novel. Written in short, sometimes choppy sentences, there isn’t a moment when you give the benefit of the doubt that a young child is thinking this.
But a 9-year-old child? Not quite. Bruno was simply too young and naive to me to come off as a 9-year-old. A 7 or 8-year-old? Maybe. But not a 9-year-old – his thoughts were just too simplistic for that. Additionally, I find it highly unlikely that a 9-year-old with a Nazi lieutenant for a father knew nothing about the Jews.
He looked down and did something quite out of character for him: he took hold of Shmuel’s tiny hand in his and squeezed it tightly.
“You’re my best friend, Shmuel,” he said. “My best friend for life.”
This is highly recommended to any fans of historical fiction – specifically The Book Thief and Code Name Verity. This is a rare gem of a book that’s emotional impact will stay with you for a long time, and while it’s not one of my all-time favorites, I still highly recommend it.
. . .only the victims and survivors can truly comprehend the awfulness of that time and place; the rest of us live on the other side of the fence, staring through from our own comfortable place, trying in our own clumsy ways to make sense of it all.