John Boyne (2007) The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

This book is described as a fable, a conceit, a what if? It’s I’d guess aimed at children or adolescents, although, of course books like the  Northern Lights series, Harry Potter, Little Women or Treasure Island were also read and enjoyed by those that can be described as being more adult. I can’t say I enjoyed The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas much, but maybe that proves I’ve finally grown up and become more mature.  It’s quite a simple tale. Nine-year-old Bruno meets Shumel, who is about the same age. Standing on one side of a barbed wire fence Bruno introduces himself, Shumel answers him in German, but he can also speak French and because he’s  Jewish and Polish finds himself wearing a pair of pyjamas and is in a concentration camp on the wrong side of the fence and history. The camp is Out-With and it was a bright sunny afternoon when Bruno and his family arrived. Bruno and his sister Gretel, three-years-older than him didn’t want to leave their idyllic house and friends in Berlin. Neither did their mother, or grandma, who was actively opposed to the move and her son’s appointment, but nothing could be done. The Fury and his glamorous blonde companion had come to dinner at their house and asked their father to be Commandant of Out-With. It was a prestigious appointment and nobody turns down the Fury. This is deception by homonym.  The Fury is the Fuhrer, Hitler, his companion is Eva Braun and the camp is Auschwitz. Bruno is mystified. I am mystified. I can’t go on. Oh dear, there’s a film version. I’ve never been one for burning books.    



Know it's meant to be a tale of friendship and redemption but I found it to be an absurd trivilisation of the Holocaust.Couldn't bear the Out With and pyjama coding.Expect it's an attempt to make the read palatable to a certain age but felt like sewing with live spider's legs.Make any sense? Thought not.


that's more or less what I was trying to say Vera. Bruno is meant to be this great innocent. He'd be in Hitler youth. He'd know who Hitler was (Fury). He'd know to hate the Jews. The smell of Out-With (those dreadful word plays) would have knocked him cold. A Jewish boy would be working so hard he wouldn't have time to look up at the sky, or else he'd be used for some sick experiment. That's what I mean. I'm too adult. More Lord of the Flies view of children's literature, because it seems more honest.


With you.Made me uncomfortable.


I read this when I was nine on a teacher's recommendation. And she knew what she was getting me into. I'm partly with you, celtic and Vera, and partly not. To me as a child it was definitely understandable (and I was no smart arse) so yes I completely agree that it's written to be handled by a child's brain. That said, I wouldn't call it a children's book as such. I think that's narrowing it down a little too much. For example, there were some things I only understood much later when I re-read it. First time round, I didn't understand the point the author was trying to make with Bruno's death quite so clearly. I think you get a lot more out of the book when reading it as an adult. However, I do agree with what Vera said about it trivializing the issue of the Holocaust, I think it was over-simplified through Bruno's eyes. 

I guess some things are best left life-size. 

I can see both sides Marionella. It's described as a fable and in fables the witches arms and legs are chopped off and nobody bothers too much. But for me, even though Bruno dies and his father is, we suppose, upset about this, it's too sweet. As an adult is leaves a bad taste in my mouth.