The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne Review

Although I finished this book last Saturday, it’s taken me a week of mulling it over in my head to write a review on it. There are definitely some good points to the book, but there are some things that I wasn’t too fond of. Summary from Goodreads:

the boy in striped pyjamas“Berlin 1942

When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move from their home to a new house far far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence running alongside stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people he can see in the distance.

But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different to his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.”

This book is very well known, partly because of its heart wrenching subject matter and partly because of the film adaption. It’s marketed as a tearjerker, and it definitely is emotionally moving. However, I do somewhat agree with some of the more negative reviews on Goodreads that there are some fundamental issues with it.

Firstly, Bruno’s naivety regarding Nazi’s, Jews and what is father did. This, to me was not believable. Even if Bruno had been concealed from the truth of the Nazi horrors (which I seriously doubt – he would have been a member of the Hitler youth, told about the Nazi’s views of the Jewish population and fed their racist and hate filled propaganda) he must have had some inkling about the conditions of what was happening behind the fence. His complete ignorance of everything relating to his fathers work, what was going on in his country and the war is just unbelievable.

Which brings me on to my next point. The narration. I look after children for a living, and Bruno’s narration seems to be way too young for a nine year old. I find it incredibly patronising and offensive to nine year olds for them to be portrayed in this way.

Now, disregarding historical inaccuracies and Bruno’s mis-aging I actually really enjoyed the book. I found it entertaining (in a strange way) and I did get a lump in my throat when Bruno (SPOILER) unknowingly went to his death. However, for a story that is marketed as a fable was there a point? His father continued working for the Nazis and continued sending hundreds of innocent children to their deaths.

I was actually very confused when I finished the book. Yes I was sad that Bruno had died (he was very endearing and sweet) but the holocaust happened and MILLIONS of Bruno’s met their untimely fate at the hands of the Nazi’s. But then I thought how much I liked this idea (however untrue) that the son of a high ranking Nazi forms this great friendship with a Jewish boy. And then the whole historical inaccuracies annoyed me again.

And then I told myself to think about it for a few days. And I did. And I am STILL confused. So this is neither a negative or positive review of The Boy in the Striped Pyjama’s – I enjoyed some of it, and was also put off by some of it. I still recommend reading it, but at the same time I would also recommend reading one of the many books that actually described what happened there as well.

Laura 🙂

3 thoughts on “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne Review

  1. I remember being annoyed that Bruno thought that HItler’s name etc was pronounced differently into words with evil connotations, but if they were speaking German – which they would have been, duh book! – he wouldn’t hear the words as different English words, he’d hear them as German words. Does that make sense? haha I hope I wrote that more clearly than I think.
    It’s a strange book. Kind of one of those times you just have to take it as the author is presenting it, historical facts / realities aside.

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