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The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

by John Boyne

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas in the United States) is a 2006 novel by Irish novelist John Boyne. Unlike the months of planning Boyne had for his other books, he said that he wrote the entire first draft of The Boy in Striped Pyjamas in two and a half days, barely sleeping until he got to the end. To date, the novel has sold more than 5 million copies around the world. In both 2007 and 2008 it was the best selling book of the year in Spain. It has also reached no.1 on the New York Times bestseller list, and been no.1 in the UK, Ireland, Australia and many other countries.

Plot summary

This book is about a simple nine-year-old boy named Bruno who liked nothing more than going to school or playing around with his friends. But because of his father's job, is forced to move from his home in Berlin to Poland, near a concentration camp. From his bedroom window, Bruno spots a fence behind which he sees people in 'striped pyjamas'. These are Jews, and they are in a Nazi concentration camp. One day his parents come to an agreement that both Bruno and Gretel, his sister, need a tutor for their education, so they hire Herr Liszt. To Bruno, Herr Liszt is the most boring teacher anyone could ever have; he teaches social studies instead of reading and arts, which Bruno prefers. So, in boredom and confusion, Bruno wonders what is going on at "Out-With" (Auschwitz) and why people are always dressed in striped pyjamas there. One afternoon, he goes exploring, and meets a Jewish boy called Shmuel, a name Bruno has never before heard but that apparently is quite common in the concentration camp. Shmuel soon becomes Bruno's friend and Bruno visits every afternoon to talk. Bruno is told by Gretel that the people in the striped pyjamas on the other side of the fence are Jews and that he and his family are "the opposite".

The story ends with Bruno about to leave Poland to stay with his aunt where it is "safer" to raise a child in the middle of war. As a final adventure, he agrees to dress in a set of striped pyjamas and digs under the fence to help Shmuel find his father, who went missing in the camp. The boys are unable to find him, and just as it starts to rain and get dark, Bruno decides he would like to go home, yet the Nazis in the area of the camp force the boys to go on a march. Neither boy knows where this march will lead. However, they are soon crowded into a gas chamber, and the author leaves the story with Bruno pondering, yet unafraid, in the dark holding hands with Shmuel. "...Despite the chaos that followed, Bruno found that he was still holding Shmuel's hand in his own and nothing in the world would have persuaded him to let go".

In an epilogue, Bruno's family spend several hours at their home trying to find Bruno, before his mother and Gretel return to Berlin, only to discover he is not there as they had expected. A year afterwards, his father returns to the spot that the soldiers found Bruno's clothes (the same spot Bruno spent the last year of his life) and, after a brief inspection, discovers that the fence is not properly attached at the base and can form a gap big enough for a boy of Bruno's size to fit through. Using this information, his father eventually pieces together what happened to Bruno. Several months later, the blue Army arrives to liberate the camp and orders Bruno's father to go with them. He goes without complaint, because "he didn't really care what they did to him anymore".

Alleged falsification of history

There has been some discussion regarding the book's depiction of life in a Nazi concentration camp. Even the very premise of the book - that there would be a child of Shmuel's age - is, according to critics, an unacceptable fabrication that does not reflect the reality of life in the camps. Rabbi Benjamin Blech, an outspoken critic, writes, "Note to the reader: There were no nine-year-old Jewish boys in Auschwitz -- the Nazis immediately gassed those not old enough to work". Such alleged falsification of history has important consequences, say Boyne's critics, for the way that the victims of the Holocaust might be remembered and commemorated, thus reviving arguments that were previously aired about Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List and the manner in which that film sanitised and falsified aspects of the concentration camp experience too.

Appropriateness for children

When Boyne finished his first draft, he gave it to his agent, Simon Trewin at United Agents, saying, "Iíve written this book, itís very different to anything Iíve done before. I think it may be a childrenís book but I think adults might like it too?"

Wiki Source

Have your say


This book left a great impression on me and will stay with me for a long time to come.
I haven't read the book, but I have seen the film. I saw this at 12 years old and it really showed me how lucky I was to have a mother and a father who appreciated me and cared for me, giving me a choice whether or not to be whisked away to a 'small' house near a concentration camp. I too was shocked on how the movie ended and trying to put what I had seen into context. Although the movie caught me in tears I am looking forward to reading the book- it will definitely be in the near future!!! ;')
this book seemed really boring but once i got into it i reallly started to like it a lot D: write another one !

a child perspective is what makes this book so good.. the heartbreaking end actually left me wiping my eyes. :(

At First i thought oh god not another boring book. But I really got into the story and enjoyed it:) It is a awesome book and i am looking forward to watching the movie:)

i was shocked how the book ended and to think that similar scenarios took place before makes me feel sick. any way i think your beyond good and i am having to write a review on it for my English homework and i am running out of paper lol


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