Monday, October 20, 2008

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
Author: John Boyne
David Fickling Books, 2006
215 pages

This is not a book I would have selected to read on my own, but it was highly recommended by one of my Vienna colleagues who hasn't done me wrong yet, so I picked it up in the young adult section of B&N recently and dropped it in the suitcase for the Asia trip. I started reading it last night but only read a few chapters before getting too drowsy. At 2:30 this morning, jet lag kicked in, and I was wide awake, so I started reading again and didn't stop until I was done (only about an hour and half later.)

It's about Bruno, the nine-year old son of an upwardly mobile military father during early 1940s Germany. Bruno seems to be a happy-go-lucky sort of fellow until the day he learns that his family is leaving their nice Berlin home for a place faraway due to his father's promotion. He calls this place Out-With, and he calls his father's boss the Fury. So it's not too difficult to figure out that Bruno's father is a Nazi, and the family is moving to Auschwitz.

Bruno hates his new home. It's boring. He misses his friends and the action back in Berlin, and he doesn't find a comrade in his older sister. One day while looking out the window, he notices some people wearing "striped pajamas" and slowly, he enters their forbidden world. From his innocent perspective we go on a bittersweet philosophical journey, meeting interesting people such as Pavel, the doctor who now serves dinner for Bruno's family, and Schmiel, the young boy (and character in the book's title) with whom Bruno strikes up a forbidden friendship.

To tell you more than this would surely be wrong. Don't be fooled, though - this isn't necessarily a book just for kids. A movie version is expected soon. I just hope it's done right.

Rating: 4 stars for the writing, but 5 stars for the message.