Published by David Fickling Books
Publication date: September 12th, 2006
Bruno is nine years old and lives with his parents and his annoying sister in Berlin. His father is a very important man in the German army and after his boss, the Fury comes to visit, Bruno and his family have to leave Berlin and move to a new home. Bruno is understandably upset—their home is a marvel of hidden rooms, places to hide and an amazing bannister for sliding down. He is even angrier when they reach their new home and it is smaller and dreary, not even in a real neighborhood so no friends to play with. There isn’t anything at all except a barbed wire fence nearby and beyond it ugly buildings with people and guards wandering around outside. This is the world Bruno inhabits in John Boyne’s young adult novel The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.
As an adult, it doesn’t take long to decipher Bruno’s world and realize that the Fury is the Fuhrer. More importantly, their new home, in a place he calls Out-With, is Auschwitz, and his father is the new Commandant. But Boyne writes so convincingly as a 9-year-old boy it is easy to see the world only from Bruno’s perspective. Which is why when he sets off on an adventure traveling far down along the fence and meets another little boy it is not incomprehensible that he doesn’t understand. In fact, he’s envious that Shmuel gets to wear pajamas all day. If he is thin, dirty, and his clothes shabby, it’s wartime and everyone is making sacrifices. He thinks his new friend is at camp, not in one. It is only when Bruno’s secret world collides with reality that everything collapses.
Bruno may be oblivious to the reality of Auschwitz, but for every page that extends his view of the world, Boyne ensures that we see the beliefs and actions of those around him, from his sister to the soldiers who work for his father. There is no shield for the reader. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a slender bit of a book, but as I reached its ending my mind was chanting ‘No, No, No, No’ and I felt a click as my heart cracked. So much pain, so simply written. Like a sigh, there and gone, without even disturbing the air around it, but leaving the pressing weight of sadness behind it.
Sarah's Book Shelves says
Oh my gosh – I had no idea that’s what Striped Pajamas was about! I obviously want to read it now after loving Heart’s Invisible Furies.
It’s a heartbreaker. I cried for 45 minutes after I finished it. I could not stop.
Because it’s YA it’s really short. You could read it in an afternoon- but be ready…
Susie | Novel Visits says
I’m so glad that you tried another Boyne book and liked it so much. THIF was so good and he’s written so many other books that I’ve been thinking I need to try one. Did you see the movie adaptation of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas? It was fantastic!
No, I didn’t know there was one! I’ll need an entire box of tissues.
I LOVE THIS BOOK! I’m so glad you decided to read it and, even more important, that you enjoyed it. I can totally relate to that feeling of dread as you neared the end of this story; your review is lovely and makes me what to reread it!
Thank you! It was so painful- you knew it couldn’t end well, but aren’t sure where it will go. And then…it’s over. I was devastated. John Boyne is becoming one of my favorite authors.
He is truly gifted. You know something is going to happen, but right up until it does…you hope. And then BAM it hits. I think I need to see the movie.
This book is amazing and completely heartbreaking. I think I read it a year or two ago and wasn’t ready to subject myself to the movie, but your review reminded me that I would like to watch it.
I should be receiving The Heart’s Invisible Furies soon and I can’t wait!
I’m going to watch the movie when my husband is out of town so I can sob to my heart’s content!
I think you’ll love Invisible Furies. It’s not the tearjerker of Boy, but is a more relatable, contemporary sadness. Not as sad.
What a fantastic review! I’ve wanted to try another book by John Boyne since finishing Heart’s and I’ve actually just downloaded The Absolutist but I think I’ll also read this as well…I love a good cry!
This is one of those cases where you know it can’t end well, but he moves so smoothly that it just hits hard. It really made my heart hurt.