'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Wednesday 7 April 2010

Review: The Boy In The Striped Pajamas

Auschwitz, 1943. Nine-year-old Bruno does not like this place: he is far away from his three best friends and the big home in Berlin. All he has is his twelve-year-old sister but she is, he informs us, a ‘Hopeless Case’. Out of loneliness and boredom, Bruno sets out to explore along the mysterious wire fence, where he meets the boy who will change his life.
Shmuel, in his uniform of striped pyjamas, is on the other side of the fence and the two strike up an unusual, secretive friendship as they find common ground in two vastly different lives. Both are nine years old, a time of learning about the world around them. A difficult task for any child, but this pair has a lot to take in, and neither one understands what the adults around them are doing.
A fictional story set during the Holocaust, The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas is both heart-warming and heartbreaking. Boyne sheds light on the faults of an adult world from the perspective of a young boy, whose innocence and naivety teach us so much about human behaviour.

Telling the story in this manner affects readers in a couple of ways: firstly, it spares us from much of the horror of Auschwitz. We are able to share in some moments of sensitive humour, such as Bruno’s mistaken version of the name as ‘Out-With’, and thereby avoid hearing all the facts, figures and details. On the other hand, it increases the shock we feel for the occurrences of the time.

The unknowing yet somehow wise and logical words of a child give us a new perception and a human story with which to attempt empathy, although we can never really understand what it was like.

Aimed at children but read just as widely by adults, this book will raise some thought-provoking questions to all its readers and inspire further investigation into this important time in history.

Title: The Boy In The Striped Pajamas (Australian title: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas)
Author: John Boyne
Publisher: Random House, $23.95
Publication Date: 2 February 2009
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781862305274
For ages: 11+
Type: Fiction