Monday, 7 May 2018

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas...We must remember

Title: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
Author: John Boyne
ISBN: 9780552773805
Rating: 8/10
Genre: WWII, war, jews, holocaust
Book: Paperback

"It was quite extraordinary. If it wasn't for the fact that Bruno was nowhere near as skinny as the boys on his side of the fence, and not quite so pale either, it would have been difficult to tell them apart. It was almost (Shmuel thought) as if they were all exactly the same really."

This line has to be the most poignant part of the book for me. The book follows the life of Bruno. A nine-year-old boy who has been forced to leave his home in Berlin to come and live in a different place. A place which Bruno does not like. He feels the new house is desolate and lonely compared to his lively, loving Berlin home. Bruno is not aware of what is happening in his own country.
The book is set in WWII Germany, during the Nazi regime. Bruno is the son of a Nazi commandant. Bruno is completely unaware of the Final Solution or of the Holocaust. He believes his country is the Fatherland and everyone should want to be German. Why would he want to be from any other nation? They are never going to be as good as Germany.
I have read this book a number of times before and each time I have felt less sympathy for Bruno. Yes, I am aware he is nine. Yes, I am aware he has been indoctrinated, however, he has a very arrogant and big headed perspective on Germany and what the Nazi party are. Bruno's naivety is clearly shown by the fact he calls Hitler, "the Fury", rather than the Fuhrer and when his family are
sent to live out of Berlin he believes the house is called "Out-With". We never actually are told what Out-With is supposed to be, but we can take an educated guess that Bruno's father now works at Auschwitz. I personally find the topic of the Holocaust very interesting and enjoy reading things about the survivors and "soldiers", if they can call themselves that.

I decided to read this book again as the children in my class at school are using it as their key text in English. I wanted to remind myself of the story and of what happens. There are a number of key moments in the book which I feel stand out and are key to Bruno's potential to understand what is going on. He cannot seem to understand why Shmuel, the new friend Bruno makes at "Out-With", lives on the other side of the giant, barbed wire fence and why they cannot play together on the same side of the fence. Bruno frequently asks Shmuel if he can come to his side of the fence to see where Shmuel lives. Shmuel tries to explain to him that his house is not the other side of the fence but that he lives with a number of other people who also wear "striped pyjamas". Bruno can't comprehend that Shmuel does not live a normal life. Bruno talks about how thin and ill-looking Shmuel is becoming but tells him to just eat more food at meal times. It is these times which frustrate me with Bruno. Shmuel is trying to talk to Bruno about his difficulties and what he finds hard and unbearable, but Bruno just dismisses him and goes back to bragging about how amazing his life is. The more I read this book the more frustrated Bruno makes me.

Having visited Auschwitz myself I was fortunate enough to see the atrocities which these poor people were subjected too. You are informed of the mass numbers of people murdered and tortured at Auschwitz but it is only when you physically see the shoes, coats, hair, teeth, prosthetic limbs and many other personal and meaningful artefacts which were forcibly removed from the inmates of Auschwitz that the horrendous things these people suffered actually hits you. I found it very humbling and upsetting that something so cruel and evil could have happened. The poignant words "Arbeit Macht Frei" are above the gates for all the, predominately, Jewish people to see. "Work sets you free". Through books like The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, I really hope the work this book has done will finally set people free. People who are persecuted for their beliefs, or colour of their skin, or sexual orientation. By writing and reading books like this we are raising awareness of what horrific things humans can do. Just let people live their lives as they see fit. If they are not causing any upset or harm to you, like the Jewish during WWII, then leave people alone. Give someone a smile as you pass them, tell them a joke, pay someone a compliment, just be nice to one another. Keep the information about the Holocaust going as everyone needs to be educated and know about it to ensure this does not happen ever again!

Overall I would definitely recommend The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne. It is such a key piece of historical fiction that I feel everyone needs to read it and I am so glad my children are reading it in school at the moment as it will make them more aware of what people can do. My own personal downfall for the book is Bruno, I understand this is the way Boyne decided to write the innocent, naive character but I just did not like him.

Rating: 8/10
10-Word-Review: Amazing book, definitely read it, people need to know this.

After reading this I felt I needed a book which I knew would not be true. Having thoroughly enjoyed the first Hunger Games I have decided to read Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. I have heard mixed reviews about the second and third books but I hope they are just as good as the first one...Steph xx

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