This was a good book. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad either, it was just… good. I had seen the movie, so I already knew what happened. I was a bit worried about reading it, as I wasn’t sure I would be able to handle so many emotions, but the book is not half as sad as the movie was. It is written in a way where you still feel for the characters, but at the same time, you’re not invested in them as such.
This book is about nine year old Bruno and his family who suddenly move from Berlin to “outwith” (Auschwitz) for his father’s work. Bruno is not impressed with the move at all, and he wonders why there are so many people on the other side of the fence, wearing striped pyjamas, and why he’s not allowed to wear pyjamas all day. Then he meets Schmuel, the boy on the other side of the fence in the striped pyjamas… and if you’ve watched the movie, you know what happens from there.
I thought hearing this story from the point of view (even though it is third person) of a nine year old boy was very unique. By no means was the story historically accurate, but I don’t think that was the point of the story. This story really makes you think of how innocent children really are. Bruno has no idea who “Jew’s” are, and he doesn’t understand why he was meant to hate them. His older sister, who was trying to explain it to him didn’t even understand herself
“ ‘Jews’ said Bruno, testing the word out. He quite liked the way it sounded. ‘Jews,’ he repeated. ‘All the people over that side of the fence are Jews.’
‘Yes, that’s right,’ said Gretel. ‘Are we Jews?’
Gretel opened her mouth wide, as if she had been slapped in the face. ‘No, Bruno,’ she said. ‘We most certainly are not. And you shouldn’t even say something like that.’
‘But why not? What are we then?’
‘We’re…’ began Gretel, but then she had to stop to think about it. ‘We’re…’ she repeated, but she wasn’t quite sure what the answer to this question really was. ‘Well we’re not Jews’ she said finally. ” (p.182)
Again, the innocence of children, not knowing why they should hate something, but they do it anyway. I think this was the point of the story.
With that being said, it was a good story, very eye-opening. It was a very quick read however it was very slow-paced. Bruno doesn’t even meet Schmuel until halfway into the book. While it wasn’t written for nine year olds, the story is told from a nine year old boy’s point of view, so he tends to pronounce things wrong which you don’t actually get told what the correct pronunciation is. I understood “out-with” immediately but he would refer to Hitler as “the Fury” which is actually pretty fitting to be honest.
Overall, I actually think the movie was better than the book for once. I would recommend reading the book though as it is just so quick to read. Don’t be put off by the fact the movie was so sad, because even though it is still just as sad and heart-wrenching as the movie, I didn’t shed one tear in this book. Maybe if I hadn’t already seen the movie, I would have been slightly more distraught but I think the way it was written, with Bruno being so confused, it was hard to get very emotionally invested.
If you have read this book though, and would like to read more stories about WWII, I would highly recommend The Diary of Anne Frank, which I’m sure you have heard about already but if not, this is actually the diary of a 13 year old Jewish girl (Anne) who is in hiding with her family and another family.
Cover: 9/10 – mine is actually a second hand copy and I don’t think the people looked after it well, which I didn’t realise because I just thought the “batterdness” was just adding to the effect of the pyjamas.
Genre: Historical fiction/WWII
Favourite Quote: “Just because a man glances up at the sky at night, doesn’t make him an astronomer you know”
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