The Boy in the Striped Pajama – Book Review

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If you start to read this book, you will go on a journey with a nine-year-old boy named Bruno. (Though this isn’t a book for nine0year-olds.) And sooner or later you will arrive with Bruno at a fence. Fences like this exists all over the world. We hope you never have to encounter one.

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I went into this book having absolutely no idea what it was about. I had no clue it dealt with the holocaust. It took my a few pages before catching up on the fact the THE FURY referred to Hitler, but not very long to grasp that Out-With was Auschwitz. Let’s dive into my thoughts:

I don’t want to be too harsh on a book that carries such a powerful message but I just don’t think it wasn’t very well executed. A lot of people complained about Bruno coming off younger than he actually was, but I think that was on purpose to emphasize his naive and sheltered mind. What I had problems with was how inconsistent his character was portrayed by the author. You can’t have a boy act like a little child most of the book than say things to his maid like “well, you’ve been brought here against your will, just like I have. If you ask me, we’re all in the same boat. And it’s leaking“.

Sounds like a very adult way to view and express the situation, for a kid who can’t even pronounce Auschwitz in his own tongue and who, after a year of looking over a concentration camp, still think these people are living there happily and could leave at any moment. (Out-with is an english mispronunciation, yet the kid only speaks German. Weird?)

[Spoilers down below]

The ending was abrupt, I thought that once on the other side of that fence, he’d face some trouble being misidentified as a prisonner and finally realize what was going on before getting out of there somehow. What saddens me the most is that even at the very end, he still doesn’t get it. He will have never known the truth. It’s frustrating, and incomprehensible. Also that nobody seemed to have a clue as to what happened with him. Your missing son’s clothes are left right beside the fence of a camp where people are massively killed and somehow it took you one year to notice that there was a gap under the fence exactly at the same spot? That’s not serious.

I still rated it 3 stars because it’s not a bad book, but after finishing it all the flaws started to pop into my mind. Have you read it? Do you agree/disagree?

GOODREADS

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8 Comments Add yours

  1. Esther says:

    The inconsistency of Bruno’s character is what makes him a poorly constructed character and annoying. All the mispronunciations, innocent comments and such were frustrating because I don’t think it was realistic at all. I think the book IS for nine-year-olds, it was just… a childish perspective. Still, as you said, I enjoyed reading it. Not that you pointed it out, though, the ending is more frustrating than ever. The whole thing was a lesson for Bruno’s father, but what about Bruno? Shouldn’t he have to have learned something too? I think he totally should have, the final scene should have been his reaction to the horrors he was unaware of. That would have been more powerful and then I could have forgiven his naive world-view.

    1. Exactly. Thanks for your input, I actually didn’t even think about the fact that it was a lesson for his father. I was too dumbstruck about how through the whole novel, he doesn’t understand what’s going on and he ends up losing his life STILL not knowing. I really wondered, what’s the point then? At least someone got something out of it (even if I still struggle accepting that it took him -the father- a full year to get a clue as to what happened).

      1. Esther says:

        I didn’t rembember it was a whole year. That’s ridiculous, really.

  2. Personally I haven’t read this myself, we were shown the film in high school and I have avoided it since. I’m not very good with really emotional films, I realise I’m denying myself a book that features very poignant moments in history but I would be an emotional mess!

    1. To be honest, the book isn’t emotional at all because it’s narrated from the perspective of a boy who doesn’t understand where he is and why. He spends the whole book whining for completely superficial reasons, oblivious to what’s going on around him. The movie is probably much more successful on conveying the dramatic impact that such a story can have. I didn’t even know there was a movie, actually. Thanks for letting me know.

      1. Wow, I thought the book would be super emotional! Great Review, you bring forth a-lot of great points 🙂

  3. I’ve never read this book. To be honest, it was actually on my list though to read, but after your review I’ll probably skip over it.
    Have you read other WWII books from the POV of children? The Book Thief comes to mind as a favorite, but I also read The Notebook (not the Nicholas Sparks one, haha) recently, and that one was amazing as well, although very dark.

    1. Does MAUS count? the graphic novel.. because other than that and The Book Thief I don’t think I’ve read any from the perspective of a younger person. It’s definitely interesting to think about but this one fell flat for me, unfortunately.

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