’The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ – By John Boyne: The tragedies of history must never fade

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An inexhaustible source of sadness and revolt, the Holocaust occupies a special place in fictional and nonfictional literature. Rivers of ink will probably flow, but they will still not be able to contain in pages of books the immeasurable tragedies that have happened. And, no matter how painful the reading, it can be seen as a duty, because this story must never be forgotten.

 About the author  

John Boyne is a 50-year-old Irish novelist. He studied English Literature at Trinity College (Dublin) and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia (Norwich). The writer has published twelve novels for adults, a short story collection of and six novels for younger readers, including ’The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’. His work has been translated in over 50 languages. Among the prizes received, I mention the Bisto Book of the Year (Ireland), the Hennessy Literary Award Hall of Fame (Ireland) and Qué Leer Award Best International Novel of the Year (Spain).

’The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ was published in 2006 and it and was adapted for a feature film, a play, a ballet and an opera. Sold in over 10 million copies worldwide, the book was a New York Times no.1 Bestseller. (For more information, visit the author’s official website: https://johnboyne.com/)

About the book

The book ’The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ is part of Boyne’s literature addressed to young readers, so recalibrate your expectations (I did not know this “detail” from the beginning). It’s the kind of book you read quickly and watch the movie unfolding in your mind.

The drama is presented to us through the innocent and truth-afraid eyes of a 9-year-old boy, Bruno, whose father is the commander of a Nazi camp. The child’s universe is divided into two: on one side of the fence, where he and his seemingly normal family are, and on the other side of the fence, where, in his innocence, Bruno would like to be with his new friend, Shmuel. The friendship of the two boys is on the one hand full of candor, but on the other hand, full of resignation. The narrator tells everything in Bruno’s acceptance, in an easy to understand writing, meant to elude the cruel truths. But these truths are felt between the lines and they will float above the entire book, like a black cloud ready to form a tornado that can shatter fences, beliefs, dreams or even life. Full of candor and deeply loaded with pain are Bruno’s dialogues with his older sister, Gretel, who is 12 years old. But what will be the price of innocence?

I will risk public disapproval by evaluating the book with only 2 stars out of 5 (on Goodreads platform), maybe because I had other expectations – I remind you that I never read reviews until after I finish reading and reviewing a book. The author leaves too few things to be read between the lines, “the boy in the striped pyjamas” doesn’t appear at all the first half of the book, and the characters, although they have a lot of potential, have been explored only at the surface. The comparison of Barry Forshaw (paraphrased on the final cover) with “To Kill a Mockingbird” or “The Catcher in the Rye” is a little bit too much, in my opinion.

Why, however, do I still recommend the book? When you’ll turn the last page of the book, you will understand.

John, I’ve heard you have so much more to offer. I’ll give it another try with „The Heart’s Invisible Furies”!

Quotes

  • “What exactly was the difference? He wondered to himself. And who decided which people wore the striped pajamas and which people wore the uniforms?”
  • “We don’t have the luxury of thinking … Some people make all the decisions for us”
  • “It’s so unfair, I don’t see whij I have to be stuck over here on this side of the fence where there’s no one to talk to and no one to play with and you get to have dozens of friends are probably playing for hours every day, I’ll have to speak to Father about it.”
  • “Some things are just sitting there, waiting to be discovered. Other things are probably better off left alone”
  • “When you sit down with a book, you are separating yourself out of your world for a few hours and getting lost in the story.”
  • “Just because someone looks sky at night, doesn`t mean it is astronaut.”

Read more book reviews by Raluca Neagu here.

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