I have been on a historical novel reading spree for a while now. This book has been on my radar because of its World War II setting. I wanted to read this book for so long, years actually. I finally read it and I am still reeling from it a little bit.
The boy in striped pyjamas is a Holocaust novel set during World War II. The two main characters of the story are Bruno and Shmuel who share the same birthday and are 9 years old. The story is narrated from Bruno’s point of view. Bruno’s family is well off, his father is in the army in Nazi Germany and they live in Berlin. Bruno’s father is promoted to Commandant and they have to move from Berlin to a concentration camp Bruno calls ‘Out-With’.
The narration of the story through Bruno is a great idea. He is 9-year-old and he doesn’t understand what is going around him. There is innocence and purity in the narration because Bruno is an innocent child. He is distraught about leaving his life, friends and grandparents in Berlin and like any child would especially when he doesn’t understand the circumstances. He doesn’t like the new house, there are no kids around except his sister and he wonders about the camp he can see his from his window. His character is relatable as he is always seeking adventure and likes exploring. It is this curiosity that leads to Bruno meets Shmuel.
Bruno and Shmuel become friends almost instantly. There is a sharp contrast in the life of Bruno and Shmuel and it is depicted in a heartbreaking way. Bruno is living in a big house with his family and has access to all necessities. While Shmuel lives in the concentration camp in terrible conditions. It was difficult for me to read the dialogues for Shmuel. This little boy has been through so much and seen things no 9-year-old should see. Bruno doesn’t understand Shmuel’s world but he feels bad for him. Their friendship is so innocent, Bruno sneaks food out of his house because he realizes Shmuel is very thin and sickly.
The end of the book was devastating, it was hard to control the tears after that ending. I know the book has some inaccuracies, especially with the way the boys meet but it doesn’t take anything away from the story as a whole. It is a very good book and it is different in a way as the protagonists’ characters are kids, and their point of view is completely different. The horrors of the Holocaust during World War II are depicted in a sensitive manner in this book and gives a sense of that horrible time in history. The pace of the plot is fairly quick and doesn’t drag on at any point.
Even though the book is targeted for younger audiences, it is recommended for readers of all ages. I might not read the book again because I don’t think I’ll be able to but it is a must-read.
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