Kelly H. (Maybedog)'s Reviews > The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
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Jul 05, 2009

it was ok
bookshelves: how-audiobook, what-historical-setting, what-fiction-and-literature, what-young-adult
Read in July, 2009

** spoiler alert ** Firstly, I want to start out by saying I get what Boyne is trying to do: talk about complicity and complacency and ignorance and how it still happens today. I agree it's an important message and I like that he attempted it, but I don't think he was as effective as he thinks he has been.

I was disappointed in this book. I felt that what made it unique was the confusion about the time and place. Once that was clear, the continued mispronunciations felt contrived to me.

I do think the text is well structured and I do think it has a good message about genocide, bigotry, and repeating historical horrors over and over again. The world was clear for the most part. I did have some problems with the book, and I am more than a little irritated with the author interview at the end (I listened to the audio version of this book.)

The boy seemed extremely dense to me. Not just naive, but really, very stupid. I would have found it much more believable if we were talking about a 6 year old. Boyne makes a good point that the atrocities were not well known when they were happening and it took a long time for people to even believe something like that could happen. (To this day many people still don't believe it!) But this story takes place in 1943 when even a child living in Berlin would have to be completely blind to not notice that a lot of people were moving away. I can see that he might be sheltered and not know what was happening to them, but to be oblivious to the fact that something was happening when many of his classmates and neighbors would have disappeared, just doesn't ring true to me. In addition, as a wealthy child, he would be well aware of class: servants aren't the same as "regular" people and yet he expects Schmuel would be welcome in his house despite being dirty and obviously very poor at this point?

Plus, I find it hard to believe that someone as high up in the Nazi party as his father wouldn't mention Jews and brainwash his children against them. Bruno has never even heard the word before. That makes no sense to me. The fact that he can't pronounce Fuhrer or Auschwitz is a little odd, too, given his age. (Never mind that the plays on words are based on someone who is speaking English--"Out With" which would not have the same meaning in German.)

But putting that aside, assuming he really is pretty oblivious and goes to a surprisingly segregated school, once he starts talking to Schmuel he should have had an awakening. They talk every single day for a year and yet he doesn't get that Schmuel's life is horrible. What the hell did they talk about? Bruno knows enough to be scared of the Nazi soldier and deny knowing Schmuel but he then still talks about Schmuel coming to visit some day. By 10 years old he should know a prison outfit when he sees one, just from books and movies (which as a rich person he should have seen at points).

My 16 year old who is in special ed and who is very ignorant listened to the last disk with me and, without knowing what the story was about or what was going on ahead of time, within a short time said, "Is this about concentration camps?" and kept saying, "what a dumb-ass" when he continued to not read perfectly obvious clues.

What irritated me the most, though, was that in his interview, Boyne said that anyone who criticizes his work because they think Bruno is too naive is being offensive to the memory of the Holocaust and the survivors. Hunh? I can't find fault with particulars of his book without denying the Holocaust? That is offensive. He's not perfect. He didn't win the nobel prize for literature for this book. That's just so obnoxious. It is also not, despite his claims, the first book written from the perspective of a child of a Nazi. I can't remember the name of it but there was a book I read as a teen that did exactly that.

Anyway, I do think this is an okay book. It was fairly enjoyable to read if you ignore the plot holes (a chain link fence with a hole big enough for a child to get through is not noticed by either the guards or adult survivors?) and the material is different from the standard. I just think it could have been much, much better.
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Comments (showing 1-15 of 15) (15 new)

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Nature.artist This is a quick read that carries an unbelievable punch. Let me know what you think when you read this

Kelly H. (Maybedog) Excellent. I'm looking forward to it. I just have to read Lolita and Song of Solomon first!

Nature.artist I am going to pick up Lolita at the book store - thought I could get it on Kindle but they don't have it!! THought that was weird. I last read Lolita in the 70's - never read Song of Solomon.

Kelly H. (Maybedog) That is odd. I thought Kindle would have most classics. Hmm.

message 5: by Cathy (new)

Cathy Great review Kelly, thanks! This is the kind of review Goodreads is all about, honest and informative, from a regular person's perspective.

message 6: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan Kelly, Ok, you convinced me. I took it off my list. I'd been thinking of it because I've seen the film, which I liked, though didn't love, and I knew the story/twist.

Kelly H. (Maybedog) Aww, thanks you folks are too kind.

message 8: by Brad (new)

Brad Love this review, Kelly. Have you ever heard of Backing Hitler? It's an impressive history book by Robert Gellately (and the historical scholarship seems to be of the most rigorous kind) that calls into question the accepted notion that most German didn't know what was going on. I gave my copy to my brother-in-law, but I think I am going to buy it and read it again. It's that good.

Kelly H. (Maybedog) Thank you Brad. That book sounds really good. I've added it. I'm going to recommend it to my dad too as he has done a lot of reading on Nazi Germany.

I thought you only reread crap you hated like Twilight. ;) My new kid now has the Manga version and says its even better than the books and the movie. Gag.

message 10: by Sesana (new)

Sesana Great review, Kelly. I've avoided this book for exactly the reasons you had issues with it.

Kelly H. (Maybedog) Thank you Sesana.

Cecily I completely agree with this excellent review and I am shocked by your revelation that anyone who thinks Bruno is naive is equivalent to a Holocaust denier! Speechless.

Kelly H. (Maybedog) I was horrified.

message 14: by Manybooks (new) - added it

Manybooks The interview basically has outed him as an offensive idiot, so maybe Bruno is supposed to represent him?

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