When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move from their home to a new house far far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence running alongside stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people he can see in the distance.
But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different to his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.
This book was recently given to me at a book swap gathering. I read it a while ago and John Boyne’s novel was certainly in need of a reread. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is an emotional read that has had me in tears each time I have read it. As I read the novel again, I realised that I was gaining more and more from it. I carefully considered each thought-provoking quote and since I knew the storyline, I was able to focus on Boyne’s brilliant writing.
John Boyne chooses to write The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas from a child’s perspective, which in turn emphasises the impact war had upon the innocent, along with the unimaginable decisions of those in power. Bruno, the protagonist, is an innocent young boy who is faced with many horrors that he is incapable of understanding. Young children more often than not, will say what they truly believe. Bruno does this and his honest view of the world highlights the atrocities of war.
The story is set in two worlds. Berlin is the home where Bruno grew up and he describes the vibrant markets, streets where children play together and laughter. In contrast, his new home is cold, terrifying and Bruno feels uncomfortable upon his arrival. His feelings and descriptions of his new home are juxtaposed with that of his happy home that he grew up in. This reflects the vibrancy before war and the desolate world during war. I understand why this novel is a perfect novel for school children to study. Although we are not living in a war torn country, it is extremely important that the children of today understand what racist views and violence can lead to. This is perfect for teachers to discuss multiculturalism within Australia, understanding of different religions, races and the need to treat and accept everyone as individuals.
Bruno converses with people who teach him about himself and the world around him. Maria, the family’s maid, is subtle in her teachings and positively influences his acceptance of all people, rather than racist views that encourage violence and hatred of others. The characterisation is unique and praiseworthy.
There is a lot more I would love to share in this review, however, I do not want to give away any spoilers. If you have not read The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas yet, please do. It is a truly exceptional novel that is emotional throughout and has an ending that is unforgettable. I highly recommend this novel and will no doubt read it again in the future.