Book Reviews

Book Review: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

…by John Boyne.

9 year old Bruno lives in Berlin with his parents and older sister, Gretel, aged 12 (who he refers to as the Hopeless Case) during World War II. His normal world is turned upside down when his father is relocated for work purposes to Auschwitz. Or Out-With as Bruno innocently pronounces it. Once out here, Bruno struggles with homesickness. He misses Berlin and his friends and his school. At Out-With, he has to deal with being homeschooled along with Gretel and has no friends whatsoever. Until he notices this place from his bedroom window where there seem to be several people all in the same striped pyjamas. His father tells him that these people are not real people. They are in fact Jews. An adventurous Bruno decides to explore on his own one day only to find another boy around his age in striped pyjamas on the other side of a wire fence. Shmuel. He and Shmuel manage to strike up a friendship of sorts which involves Bruno bringing him food on occasions and talking. Bruno’s mother who has been getting depressed by the day convinces his father that she and the kids should go back to Berlin. While Bruno goes to tell Shmuel about the same, he visits him on the other side of the fence. What happens to Bruno? Can his friendship with Shmuel survive?

I had seen the movie prior to reading the book and I must say they are both similar. It’s a beautiful book looking at one of the horrors of this century through the eyes of an innocent child. In particular, you once again see how utterly ridiculous the whole notion of Hitler’s was. If kids can strike up a friendship and break through invisible barriers of religion, race, culture etc, why can’t adults? After all, in the end we are all human beings. The book and movie leave you teary-eyed and with a heavy heart. But then, given the atrocities of the time, it’s not surprising.  The movie has been previously reviewed on this blog here.

Highly recommended.

My rating:

Until next time,


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  • Gangu
    6 April 2012 at 3:20 am

    Haven’t read the book, but have watched the film. The futily of war and crimes committed in the name of religion made me angry and sad at the same time. I’ve watched many movies and read books on the Holocaust, and my heart breaks every time to learn of the atrocities committed against helpless humans.

    • Psych Babbler™
      8 April 2012 at 1:01 am

      Surprisingly Gangu this is one book where the film didn’t change much. So it’s quite similar. I have only recently been reading and watching about the Holocaust (last 3-5 yrs) and I’m astounded at the stupidity and ignorance that led to the deaths of so many individuals!

    • Anonymous
      8 May 2012 at 9:56 am

      I recently watched this movie showing all the angst of a mother & bewilderment of an innocent child. War is nonsensical and never solves anything except ‘death’.
      To pick on religious groups for any reason is harsh, there a good and bad in all. Human beings should treat each other as they would like to be treated, what a better world we would have.

  • Zainab
    11 August 2013 at 11:03 pm

    Totally book-obsessed 16-year old here, so you can imagine my excitement when I came across a blogger whose already-read list has so many books in common with mine!

    The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a book I cherish a lot, for the childish innocence and simplicity of its narration makes the horrors in it all the more chilling. After reading this review, I was going to suggest The Book Thief, but then saw you’d read that as well 😀

    I loved your reviews, especially the one for Gone Girl and The Casual Vacancy which cleared any hesitation I had about buying them. By the way, have you read The Cuckoo’s Calling? I’d love to see your take on it!

    • Psych Babbler
      12 August 2013 at 9:06 pm

      Welcome here Zainab! Thanks for the comment. Nice to see someone with a similar taste in books. 🙂 I haven’t got my hands on The Cuckoo’s Calling yet but hoping to shortly. Have you read it?

      • Zainab
        12 August 2013 at 11:04 pm

        No, but I plan to buy it soon!

        Talking of similar tastes, you could try out Khaled Hosseini. The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns are some of the most heartrending books I’ve ever read. His latest book (And the Mountains Echoed) was a big let-down, though.

        P.S. Saw the movie adaptation of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas just a short while ago. Loved that it captured the soul of the book. The waterworks, which I’d been trying to block, burst towards the end when Bruno’s mom screamed out.
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