The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Published 12:53 pm Tuesday, February 24, 2009

This novel is Irish writer John Boyne’s fourth novel, but his first written for a younger audience. Don’t let the subtitle: “a fable” dissuade you, though, this is a book that deals with a very serious subject and adults will be quick to recognize the unfortunate moral of the story.

This is the story of an unlikely friendship between two eight year old boys on opposite sides of the fence at a Nazi concentration camp cleverly referred to as “Out-With.” It is told from the perspective of 8–year–old Bruno, whose father is a high ranking Commandant in Hitler’s army. Bruno’s mispronunciation of the Fuhrer as “The Fury” is quite on the mark.

The story begins as Bruno and his family move from their lovely five storey home in Berlin, to a smaller bleak house at Auschwitz with no “nooks and crannies” to explore.

His 12 year old sister, Gretel, (The Hopeless Case) is not much company to him. Bruno, lonely without his Berlin friends, asks his father who the people are on the other side of the fence and his father responds that they are not people at all.

But with the spirit of adventure in his heart, Bruno decides to go exploring in his yard. There he meets up with Shmuel, a Jewish boy in the concentration camp, who shares much in common with Bruno.

Their innocent friendship leads to devastating consequences. While not historically accurate, remember this is a fable; it does remind us of the fences in all our lives.

Reviewer: Jane Bailey is the director at the Columbiana Public Library.