In fact everywhere he looked, all he could see was two different types of people: either happy, laughing, shouting soldiers in their uniforms or unhappy, crying people in their striped pyjamas, most of whom seemed to be staring into space as if they were actually asleep. page 208
Title: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
Author: John Boyne
Publisher: Random House
Nine-year-old Bruno knows nothing of the Final Solution and the Holocaust. He is oblivious to the appalling cruelties being inflicted on the people of Europe by his country. All he knows is that he has been moved from a comfortable home in Berlin to a house in a desolate area where there is nothing to do and no one to play with. Until he meets Shmuel, a boy who live a strange parallel existence on the other side of the adjoining wire fence and who, like the other people there, wears a uniform of striped pyjamas.
Bruno's friendship with Shmuel will take him from innocence to revelation. And in exploring what he is unwittingly a part of, he will inevitably become subsumed by the terrible process.
Before I start my review, I would like to implore you to please, please, please read this book before you watch the movie. I watched the movie first, so I didn't go into this book as a blank slate that has to be coloured. And whilst it is still an incredibly moving book, it is much better to read the book before watching the movie.
I have always been oddly drawn to the Holocaust, I don't quite know why. And I don't mean drawn like people stopping to look as they pass the scene of an accident. I mean drawn in the sense of it feels sort of kindred to me. I cannot explain it. Perhaps I was a victim of the Holocaust in a previous life? Perhaps I was one of the few good souls who housed fugitive Jews and was killed for it. I cannot say. All I know is I cannot pass anything to do with the Holocaust without feeling a great deal of melancholy and an odd familiarity. It is for that exact reason that there are 4 books dealing with the Holocaust on my Classics Club List. It is something that should never be forgotten, and it is an atrocity that should never be repeated.
To read a book written from a child's perspective is amazing, especially when the author is not a child. The simplicity of the way in which it is told, and the graveness of the story, the harrowing reality of what happened to Jews during World War II in concentration camps, the little value attached to a Jewish life... It makes The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas a poignant, sad, shocking but beautiful novel.
"What exactly was the difference? he wondered to himself. And decided which people wore the striped pyjamas and which people wore the uniforms?
Of course sometimes the two groups mixed. He'd often seen the people from his side of the fence, and when he watched it was clear that they were in charge. The pyjama people all jumped to attention whenever the soldiers approached and sometimes they fell to the ground and sometimes they didn't even get up and had to be carried away instead" page 100/1
Whilst I had read this before, I was hoping to get the same startling realisation as I did before. And if you've read this book before, you'll know what I am talking about. If you haven't, well I'll not say anymore as far as that goes, because I do not want to ruin it for you. I didn't have that same 'aha moment' but I was moved in a different manner than before.
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is not a book that one reads for enjoyment, but rather a book that you read for the experience of it. John Boyne shows that you don't need a complex story to get people to feel. That a story told so simply can unleash a watershed of emotions is only one indication of the brilliance of the story and the author. Everything that is pointed out to you, in the clear way that only a child's eyes can see, and it makes us look at ourselves, and question our courage should something like this happen again.