This book has been on my to read list for years and I am so happy I found it in a charity shop. As far as spontaneous buys go, a good book is never a regretful purchase. This is a book about a nine year old boy who is moved from Berlin to Poland with his family because of his fathers work. He spots a fence which separates him from a community of people all wearing striped pyjamas and soon becomes friends with Shmuel, a boy in striped pyjamas.
I read a chapter of this book in the morning, and couldn’t stop thinking about it all day so a few nights ago I stayed up until the early hours finishing the book and it was so worth it! I am not great at writing reviews so here are some of my thoughts after reading the book.
Firstly John Boyne has a really easy to read writing style. The text flows well and for a relatively short book, Boyne has really managed to capture a lot of detail and described certain scenes with few adjectives but in a powerful way. I particularly like the repetition used throughout the story.
Although the story or the history is it based on is not light-hearted, there is comedy found in the innocence of young Bruno and his outlook on life. The way he calls Auchswitz ‘Out-With’ adds an element of tragicomedy. It’s never explained in the novel but if you have an understanding of the Holocaust you like me would notice this play on language. This to me was so significant in the novel as it confirmed the lack of knowledge and innocence of children during this significant time in European History.
Reading this I felt sorry and sad for the Jews and what happened in the past. Such a sad story told through Shmuel’s voice is a horrible reminder of what life was like during the Holocaust and it’s upsetting to think that no text books or opinions taught in school or in the media would ever really show just how horrific the living conditions were in Auchswitz. I also developed a new sorrow for the German families who were pulled into the disgusting happenings without a choice. Bruno pleaded not to move away from his happy home and I imagine a lot of women like Bruno’s mum had to stand by their military husbands and keep quiet about it all.
All of that tension, sorrow, hurt and suffering during the happenings at Autswitz 1944 and the broader happenings during the whole genocide is quite overwhelming to think about! For a small novel it really gets you thinking and is so touching and powerful. I will be watching the film with a box of tissues next to me.