Bruno is nine years old. His father is making them leave their wonderful house in Berlin and move to Out-With, a horrible old place in the middle of nowhere. It’s a bad decision. Bruno can see this, but apparently everyone else can’t. But the Fury has great things in mind for his father and Bruno guesses that’s a good thing.
Out-With is just as terrible as Bruno thought it would be. Until he meets Shmuel – the little boy in the striped pajamas.
This is a horrible book. And I mean that in the best possible way.
It’s disgusting cruelty viewed through the eyes of innocence. It’s about the Holocaust, one of man’s darkest parts of history. And it’s written in the quaint, lateral-thinking, naïve way of a little boy. Horrifying. Shameful. Utterly despicable.
This is one of the best Holocaust books I’ve ever read. The style is unique and fresh and simple, an uncommon find these days. It’s a straightforward story. While we read everything how Bruno, the eight-year old son of the Commandant, sees it, we also glimpse the reality and truths he misses. The mother’s “medicinal sherries”. The sister’s sudden infatuations with maps. The servants who are too scared to breathe out of turn. The parent’s arguments. The grandmother hating her son’s “work”. Bruno dismisses most of it. But you can see the underlying truths, the stark realities, and the horrifying cruelness of it all.
It’s written with long sentences and shorter words and quipped phrases. At times, it reads almost like a classic. That saying, it’s an easy read. You don’t doubt for the second a nine-year-old is writing it. Everything feels right—his terms, his way of putting things, how he sees things, how he talks, how his mind works.
The characters are wonderful—realistic, poignant, and three dimensional. Bruno is an immediate favourite. He’s small, he speaks his mind (though even the maid warns him not to), and he’s so innocent. I especially love his pronunciations: Out-with for Auschwitz, their home, and Fury for the Fuhrer, Hitler.
It’s a simple tale, but it really affected me. I thought about it for days, really haunted by the concepts and the truths and the tale itself. It may be a fictional book, but the concepts in it aren’t. That stuff really happened. It’s history, written into a story for us to read. This is definitely not a children’s book. The “narrator” may only be nine, but it’s a book for high schoolers and older. It’s disturbing and sad. And it’s supposed to be. The author isn’t writing this tale to be callous and cold and tell a story with seemingly no attachment to the reality and the horror of what he’s saying. He’s gone for a particular style (and absolutely nailed it) to get across his message across. This is a really special book and I’ll easily say it’s one of the best books of all time.
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a sharp, bitter reminder of what the Holocaust really involved and who it affected. This story has been excellently told.