Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Loved the flyleaf blurb on this John Boyne book:
The story of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is very difficult to describe. Usually we give some clues about the book on the jacket, 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. Fences like this exist all over the world. We hope you never have to encounter such a fence.
That said, starting a book with literally no idea of anything about it turns out not to be the best strategy for me. I like an inkling of time and place. Spending the first dozen pages of the book going, "Okay, I got it, it's Germany! But wait: is it war-time Germany? Which war?" impedes my entrenchment in the Land of Make Believe. Add to this the fact that young Bruno gets the names of people and places wrong--which was a cute device, until he saw it written down and still wouldn't share the proper name with the reader. Then I was annoyed.

Bruno annoyed me quite a bit, come to think of it. In fact, I was livid with him a couple of times. This isn't necessarily a bad thing--his naivety is one theme of the story, and while it protects him, in a sense, from the anti-Semitism that surrounds him, it can also make him unintentionally cruel and callous. In an era where many Americans prefer not to look past their front yards, there's an important message in this story where a child is blind to the prison camp that's literally in his own front yard.

The Soundtrack: I chose 1921, from The Who's Tommy because these lyrics kept running through my mind when I was writing this review: "You didn't hear it, you didn't see it! You won't say nothing to no one never in your life. You never heard it. Oh, how silly it all seems
Without any proof.
and because of the haunting last words, "What about the boy?" Listen to it in the sidebar.


  1. It's interesting that for the Australian cover, it shows 2 boys on different side of fence, one wearing "pajama". Looking at the cover, I could pretty much guess what the story's about and it made me interested, while this cover (shown on your post) didn't interest me before because I totally had no clue about the storyline.

  2. I read this and thought it was great. I'll be posting my review tomorrow.

  3. Mee, I agree with you 100%. I never would have picked this up if I hadn't been told, by several bloggers, that I had to read it.

    Kathy, I'll be sure to check tomorrow for your review!

  4. Terrific song tie in. I've read quite a few mixed reviews of this and don't think I'll ever get around to it. I don't usually read the back covers when I start a book but sometimes I need a little kernel of the story just so I have my bearings.

  5. Care, I'm always mixed about reading the back cover. What I end up doing is sort of skimming it to get the main gist, in hopes of not committing any details to memory.

  6. I haven't read this one yet, but I'm thinking of adding it to my list for the WWII reading challenge. Would it be okay to link to your review on War Through the Generations?

    Diary of an Eccentric