Monday, January 11, 2010

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne


I love Holocaust books, if you couldn't tell, but this is the first fiction one I read... and I have to say, I'm so glad it's fiction.

This book is from the point of view of a nine year old little boy who happens to be the son of a Nazi Commandant.  They move from their house and life in Berlin to live in a place he knows as "Out-with".  He's incredibly bored to begin with and can't understand the purpose of the large fenced area he can see outside his bedroom where all are men or boys and wearing the same striped pajamas.  It's so interesting to see, from what a child's point of view would be, the things that really did happen.  One day, he ends up walking along the fence and finds a boy who soon becomes his best friend.  Everyday they meet and talk but are always seperated by the fence.  They compare their lives and the things they like and don't like and soon find they actually have a lot in common when it comes to not liking where they live and things that go on in their lives.  Well, one day the german boy's mother decides she's had enough of the place and wants to go back home to Berlin.  So, as a final goodbye, they german boy dresses in some striped pajamas his friend acquired for him and crawls under the fence to have "an exploration" and some time to play with his friend whom he will greatly miss.  After over an hour of exploring, the german boy (who's name is Bruno, by the way) decides he better be getting back home.  At that moment, soldiers start rounding up hundreds of people in the area they're standing in and marching them.  Bruno doesn't like this but is trapped in the middle of this crowd.  They are then marched into a building where it is so crammed no one can hardly move.  He tells his friend (who's name is Shmuel) that he's his best friend for life, and holds his hand, not knowing what's about to happen next.  The story ends with one more chapter saying Bruno was never heard from again.

Having read many books on this subject before, it's sad to realize what happened to him, how he was marched into a gas chamber and, of course, the rest is history.  Bruno never knows what was going on in the camp, or that it was even a camp for prisoners.  He's envious of Shmuel because, from his point of view, he has lots of friends to play with, where he has none.  He sees and dislikes the soldiers that come in and out of his house.  He definitely doesn't like being in the camp once he's there, and even feels fear seeing the things he sees there.  He doesn't understand that "the Fury" who came to dinner and gave his father this important job at "Out-with" is Hitler, nor does he know why his mother doesn't like him or his grandmother, for that matter.  The innocence of a child is greatly portrayed in this touching story, and it opened my eyes to yet another point of view of this horrific time in history.

Reading this, I'd like to find a book from a Nazi's point of view, or even a german's point of view who went along with all of this to avoid death themselves. 

I can't tell you why I'm so fascinated with this, but I am just the same.  This book was definitely a good one, and, even though it's fiction, still gives an accurate account of what happened to so many people.  I love that it was from the view of a child, of innocence.  It was written well and reads quickly.  If you're interested in the Holocaust, this is definitely one I'd add to your mind's library.

For a different review and perspective, click the link above or here.

6 comments:

Cortney said...

I've wanted to see this movie too, but now I want to read the book!! Have you read the Children of the Promise series by Dean Hughes? It's a fictional series about an LDS family going through WWII. One kid is a missionary in Germany and then becomes a paratrouper. One kid ends up in a POW camp. One kid is a nurse in Hawaii. There is also a family in Germany that the missionary got to know and it follows them through their struggles and the youngest is actually in the German army at one point. I love this series and read it all the time. He has another series that is the same family later going through the Vietnam war, but this one is better then that one.

Jami said...

My SIL told me about that series, I think. I was turned off by it at first because it's fiction, but after reading this last book, I'm almost tempted. I like fiction and all, but the real stories, knowing what's being told really happened to someone and they survived, are just amazing to me. I'd love to get my hands on a true story from an LDS point of view - if you come across any or know of any, do let me know! :)

Cortney said...

There are tons of books Dean Hughes mentions that he used to research the series. There are lists at the end of his books. I like his because he just adds fictional characters to events that really happened. (Kinda like The Work and The Glory) In one of the books he says "If I write that it's snowing, it really was snowing that day". That's how much research he put into it.

Jami said...

That sounds actually pretty cool! Maybe I'll have to check one out just to see the list of researched items... do you think my library would have it or is it too "Mormon" for the real world? I guess I could always look...

Cherstin rocks said...

I also recommend the Children of the Promise, but I doubt your library is going to have it. Doesn't hurt to look, though! There is also Helmuth Hubener biographies. He was an LDS youth during WWII. I read Three Against Hitler when I was like 14 or so.

I did listen to an audio book on tape about a Mormon who was also a Nazi...It was also historical fiction, but I really liked the premise. Traitor by Sanda Grey

Jami said...

Cherstin, I think you're the one who recommended Children of the Promise before... and my library DOES have them... I'll have to look into them.