As someone who likes history — especially World War II — I’ve read quite a few books about the Holocaust. John Boyne’s book, The Boy In The Striped Pajamas, took a different approach and I liked it for that reason.
In a way, the book is a mystery and you have to piece it together yourself. This book is told from the viewpoint of a young, sheltered German boy, Bruno, uprooted from his comfortable home in Berlin as the result of his father’s promotion by someone called the Fury. The Fury comes to dinner one night with his friend Eva.
Bruno’s family goes to live in a new home far away and Bruno doesn’t like his new home “Out-With” very much. He gets bored with no place to go and no kids to play with except for his exasperating older sister. Bruno’s new home is next to a big fence and he sees some people off in the distance wearing what he thinks are striped pajamas. For something to do, Bruno decides to go exploring one day and meets a young boy his own age, Shmuel, who stays behind the fence. The two boys talk and over the course of time, become friends.
Boyne gives you various clues about where all of this is happening and who people are, but it took me a while to catch on. Shmuel mentions that they are in Poland. Then I figured out which concentration camp “Out-With” represented (it rhymes with the photo caption above). And once the Fury’s appearance was described, I understood who he was, too.
You have to really know World War II Holocaust history to get the book and to understand what happens to Bruno. Shmuel doesn’t really let Bruno know much of what’s going on and Bruno is too naive and too young, perhaps, to comprehend it all.
The book seems simple, but it’s a masterful juxtaposition of innocence and sadness. I recommend it for anyone who is interested in World War II history.