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
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?"
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