Monday, May 4, 2009

The Boy In Striped Pyjamas

The Boy in Striped Pyjamas
by John Boyne
240 pages
Fiction, History- Holocaust
David Fickling Books

This book isn't really about a boy in striped pyjamas, it is, but really it isn't. It is really about the other side of the coin, and portraying a picture to the reader that will never be forgotten. I have thought about how to do this book review, and what to include and I have arrived at the conclusion that the less the possible reader knows before snatching up The Boy in Striped Pyjamas the better.

Even the back of the audiobook I have aims to be extremely vague, saying they "think that it would spoil the listening (or reading)" in the giving away of this plot and story. I completely agree that this is a book that you need to read cold-turkey. Reviews are good in most cases, but not in this one. Because each time you read a review, a little chip of the innocence of Bruno is chipped away, because you know what he doesn't even know of his father. Oh yes, that will surely happen even as the novel unfolds, but I think I need to let the author chip away- because he does it with an incredible disarming perfection.

I walked away from this book with tears in my eyes, and fire in my heart. What could bring about this type of treatment of other people? The Boy in Striped Pyjamas just cannot be reviewed with accuracy without being of detriment to the surprise and intrigue of the book. I will not ruin this read for you, I wouldn't dream of it. This is one of the best books I have ever read, if that isn't enough to get you to read it...I won't jeopardise the impact of it on your life for a good review at B&b ex libris. This is one you just have to read! A perfect recipient of my Stellar Five Chicken Book Award. Yep, all the cluckin' is really worth a read of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. I bet you'll cluck too!!

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Spoiler alert!!!
If you want to read the novel cold turkey, you should stop reading here. Go, enjoy the novel and read the rest of this after.

Author John Boyne lecture/interview:

At the end of the audio book there was an amazing interview with author John Boyne, the following words are not direct quotes, but I did jot them down as I listened to the interview, I tried to stick as close to what the authors actual words were, but these are more like scattered notes after listening to an amazing lecture. I just love them so much that I have to share with you:

There is only one normal judgment to come away with when you think of the holocaust.

A story placed at a terrible location, at a terrible time. But this is a novel. Any story requires the willing suspension of disbelief, this story is like a nightmare and the reader can feel what is coming. The older you are, the more you know and the more fearful and real it seems. To come away from the book, annoyed by the different parts is thus minimizing the bigger questions that this novel raises is a failure to see the impact of this atrocity on us as a humanity.

The Boy in Striped Pyjamas shows a juxtaposition of extreme evil and extreme naietivity. Also to deal with the complacency of the people, during the 1940's. Groups of jewish people were walking through local villages, starving and being tormented these people were known as Hitler's willing executioners. They didn't step in, didn't try to bring change. Would you have done anything to stop it? You'd like to think you would, but millions of people just like you were caught up in the complacency and didn't make a move to stop anything happening on the other side of the fence.

John Boyne hopes that this is a starting point for children that they will want to stand up and say, why did that happen? And that then they will want to read more about the severity when they are old enough.

John Boyne's website

Movie Adaptation of The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas: I haven't seen this yet, but I a dying to. I am waiting on my husband (B) to read the book, which is hard for him to do when he has a month left in the completion of his masters thesis. Soon I will get to see it.


Ti said...

Very mysterious indeed!! I went to Powell's just to get a little inkling about what it was even about but that was sort of vague too.

I'm going to have to read this one.

Ali said...

See, I had the opposite reaction about reading it cold turkey--I wish I'd known more, just an inkling, about the setting before I cracked open the book. For one thing, I might not have read it on Readathon day.

bermudaonion said...

This book was so good - the ending just shocked me. I'd like to see the movie now.

claire said...

Okay, you got me. I stopped reading after the chicken award and am putting this on my wishlist. Will get back to the rest of your post after I've read it. I usually like to know almost nothing about a book when going into it. That's the fun for me. said...

I HATED this book. I listened to it in late 2008 before I launched my blog.

Why did I dislike it so much? I've studied the Holocaust quite a bit and have a fairly large collection of Holocaust literature (mostly non-fiction). I've amassed many of these books for a novel I was planning to write and even traveled to Auschwitz/Birkenau to see how the camp was laid out.

The way the Boyne describes the camp's geography is WRONG, not to mention the events that lead up to the end. It's not believable at all if you've studied and researched the subject. IF, and that's a big IF, he had used a sub-camp then maybe he could have gotten away with it. But NEVER in a million years that would have happened at Auschwitz. Not possible.

I think he used that camp more for the name recognition (and to get under an agents radar), and that's simply unimaginitive writing.

I realize it's fiction, but you don't screw around with hard facts to move your plot foreward.

There were so many other things wrong with this book that I guess it does deserve a full review and not a rant in the comments section.

In my opinion the best fictionalized book about the Holocaust is Styron's Sophie's Choice. The events and the characters are so believable, and it was well researched.

Beth F said...

I'm afraid to read the review or the comments. But I'm so happy to hear you did this on audio. I just downloaded it from my library. After listening to it, I'll try to remember to come back and read your spoiler section and the comments.

Stephanie said...

I really found this book to be moving and have the movie sitting on my tv cabinent just waiting to be watched. I think I have to be in the right frame of mind to watch it (which is probably why it's been sitting in the same exact spot for weeks)!

Elizabeth said...

I hope the movie is good. I'm almost afraid to watch it, because I don't want such a great book to be ruined for me.

Susan @ Reading Upside Down said...

I found some aspects of this story frustrating as well (the vague cover blurb and some content issues), but I think that it is important to remember that it is a fictional novel aimed at younger readers, not a dissertation on the Holocaust or even a based on fact novel for adults.

For the target audience, I think that this book works amazingly well. I think that having the narration from the perspective of the child amplifies the horror of The Holocaust, creating a greater impact from the vaguely predictable storyline.

I plan to have my children read this book when they are old enough. I'm not sure whether I will see the movie or not.

Molly said...

I put this book on hold at the library on March 21. I am still number 30 in line!!

I think it is time to bite the bullet and just buy my own personal copy. I am tired of waiting -- and your review has made me even more anxious to start reading it.

Marg said...

I enjoyed this when I read it a while ago, with a few reservations. I guess the main thing to remember is that it was subtitled A Fable which helped to explain some of those issues that I had.

I do want to see the movie but I am a bit concerned to see what they do with the ending.

SuziQoregon said...

I also listened to the audio version of this book. I was glad I did because it was very well done. I think the best part about the audio version is the added bonus of an interview with the author. It's actually more of a conversation between the author and the original publisher.

In that interview John Boyne explained many things that I had questioned or perhaps found frustrating about the book.

I highly recommend the audio version and most definitely do not turn it off before listening to that interview.

Anonymous said...

A nice review without actually saying anything, but I am still convinced I should read it :)

Thanks for the review Bethany.

I love the poster of the movie, very interesting.

Kailana said...

I have seen the movie version, but still haven't read the book. I plan to, but I might wait until the movie is not as fresh in my mind!

Anna said...

I haven't read this one yet, but I've seen the movie. It made me cry. I was thinking of reading this one for our WWII challenge. Would it be okay to link to your review at War Through the Generations?

Diary of an Eccentric

Joanne said...

That was a great review! I haven't reviewed this just because it seemed like all I could say was I liked it without ruining anything. It really is a book that's best read without any knowledge of plot beforehand.

Loved that you included your notes from the authors audio discussion! I really want to listen to the audio version now - hearing an author talk about their writing makes it all the more significant.

S. Krishna said...

I only read the first part of the review (without spoilers), but I definitely want to read this one. Thanks for the review.

Corinne said...

I'm reading this one for a challenge this year! It sounds like one I will really like, in a sad sort of way.

Serena said...

I've seen the movie of this book and really enjoyed it (though I think enjoyed is the wrong word here given what happens). I'll have to pick up the book for the WWII Reading Challenge

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