Review: The boy in the striped pyjamas by John Boyne

This book is just so heart-breaking, as well as heart-warming.

The boy in the striped pyjamas tells a story of the nine-year-old Bruno. His father is a very special man, although Bruno isn’t quite sure what is father is actually doing. When his father gets a promotion, they have to leave their house in Berlin for a house in the middle of nowhere. Where there are no children and where there’s nothing to explore. But Bruno couldn’t have been more wrong. Cause on one day, he makes a great discovery. And his discovery is called Shmuel. Shmuel lives on the other side of the fence. Where everyone wears striped pyjamas. Slowly Bruno and Shmuel become best friends, but their friendship has devastating consequences.

The book is written from the perspective of the young Bruno. So it’s all a little childish. The writing style isn’t hard to read and it’s rather playful. I really liked the names of the chapter. It made me feel as if I was reading one of Bruno’s adventure stories. John Boyne really made clear that the book was written in the perspective of Bruno, because he also leaves some things out. He lets you fill them in for yourselves, because we all could guess wat could of would have happened and Bruno himself is afraid to say them out loud. He also pronounces some things wrong, because a nine-year-old would probably do that. It makes things more interesting and makes you feel even more hopeless, because you realise, once more, that Bruno is just a child living in a cruel world and he can’t do anything about it. There’s nothing he could do to help is best friend, if he would even realise his best friend needs help.

The characters in this book are very real. Bruno is a truly nine-year-old who doesn’t know much about the world he is living in and doesn’t really understand it either. He has got a love-hate relationship with his twelve-year-old sister Gretel. Which, in my experience, has got almost every brother and sister. He thinks his father is doing all the good in the world, because he doesn’t know better. Shmuel, a really understanding little boy, on the other hand, gets to see Bruno’s father from another side.The conversations that the two of them are having are very heart-breaking. Bruno doesn’t know what it is like on the other side of the fence and thinks Shmuel has got it better than him, because he has got a lot of other boys to play with. And he tells things like this to Shmuel. It hurts to read, because you know how that effects Shmuel. But at the same time you can’t blame Bruno for doing this, because he’s a kid who doesn’t know how cruel the world really is and how awful the things that are happening to Shmuel really are. Despite that, it’s also heart-warming to see that the two of them love each other for who they are and are forgiving towards each other. And of course only the fact that a friendship between such different kids could exist, already makes me feel warm inside.

Gretel is a rather annoying teenager at the phase of exploring things. She always thinks she is smarter than Bruno and tries to behave much older than she actually is. Just like a twelve-year-old would be.

The story itself is heart-breaking because you know it’s based on things that really happened. People really got treated like Pavel in this story, people really got put in camps and got shot to death for no particular reason. And there really were people like lieutenant Kotler. But there were also good people, not to forget. And what happens in the end and in the way it was written, has broken my heart into a million pieces as well.

I saw the movie before I read the book and normally I would not like that, but I have to admit that it didn’t bother me this time. It’s because the movie is very true to the book and it was executed very well. I loved the cast, Asa Butterfield is just an amazing actor and the boy who played the role of Shmuel was perfect as well. I heard their voices in my head while reading their conversations and I pictured their faces in my head as well, but that didn’t bother me either. I really liked the movie and I think the book is just as good, if not better.

Rating: ★★★★

The boy in the striped pyjamas / John Boyne / Definitions / 2006 / 216 pages / ISBN 9781862305274

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