Review: The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

I got an urge to read this after being subjected to too many hours of the History Channel. It might as well be renamed to the Hitler Channel actually, as that’s all they seem to know. I mean, I like Hitler as much as the next girl (err, that came out wrong…) but history had other characters too, you know? Anyway, that channel’s on constantly in Hanna Manor (haha, say that out loud- I’m seriously calling my house that from now on) because Father Dearest has to have some form of noise constantly. Anyway, obviously the incessant discussion of Auschwitz must have seeped into my subconscious because I found myself reaching for The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas this morning.

The story of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is very difficult to describe. Usually we give some clues about the book on the cover, but in this case we think that would spoil the reading of the book. We think it is important that you start to read without knowing what it is about. If you do start to read this book, you will go on a journey with a nine-year-old boy called Bruno. (Though this isn’t a book for nine-year-olds.) And sooner or later you will arrive with Bruno at a fence. We hope you never have to cross such a fence.
Guess there wasn’t much point in posting that useless plot synopsis was there? Anyway, I’m sure most of you know what this is about. Nine-year-old Bruno and his family are forced to move out of Berlin because of his father’s huge promotion. Their new house is nothing like the old one, mainly due to the huge barbed wire fence at the bottom of the garden. Bruno has no idea what’s going on but resolves to find out who the people are in the striped pyjamas behind the fence.
Flicking through some of the other reviews on goodreads, it looks as though you either love this book or you hate it. The people that hated it can’t seem to get past the tiny plot-holes and complain that it’s unrealistic, but to me that’s missing the point of the novel. It doesn’t pretend to be a hard-hitting expose on Nazi concentration camps, it’s just a moving story of a boy whose innocence is slowly being eroded.
The people that loved it each seemed to get a different message from it. This is the second time I read it, and I took from it that during the war, even good people like Bruno’s father were persuaded to do things that would previously have been seen as wrong. During my first read-through however, I remember thinking more about the innocence of the children forced to be a part of the war. I think it’s one of those books that you can read it over and over and each time get a new message.

Actually, that reminds me of the one gripe I had with The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas. Bruno is a little too young. He’s meant to be nine years old, but lacks any of the understanding and intelligence that a normal boy of that age should have. I understand that his innocent is exagerrated to promote the point of the book, but why not just make him a younger child? He’s just generally a very selfish and irritating boy.

Regardless of how old he should be, Mr. Boyne narrates very well in the voice of a nine-year-old. I especially liked his slow realisation that the servants were people too, with their own war-related troubles. It really is very clever – he speaks and thinks exactly as a small boy would, either about the war or his day-to-day life.

I love this book. You have to be willing to just go with it and accept certain things, but it really is a moving book. I don’t really fancy the film as I can’t see how they’d manage to show it all from Bruno’s perspective, but the book will always be a favourite for me.


  1. Many have recommended this book to me because I love WWII based novels. I had no idea that it was narrated by a child. Interesting.

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