The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

…by John Boyne.

Set in the Nazi Germany era, this novel tells the story of a nine year old, Bruno. Bruno’s father, a Nazi commander, is relocated from Berlin to Auschwitz, where he is to supervise the concentration camp. Bruno gets extremely upset to leave behind his friends, grandparents and everyone / everything in Berlin. Once in Auschwitz, Bruno feels lonely given that there is no one his age around with whom he can play / spend time with…that is until he peeps out of his bedroom window and sees a fenced area far away where there are people – children and men – all wearing stripped pajamas.

Curious by nature, Bruno ventures into exploring more – he goes toward the fenced area one day and, to his surprise, finds a nine year old boy, Shmuel, sitting on the other side. They get to talking and a beautiful friendship blossoms over the course of the next year. Right when Bruno starts getting used to his life in Auschwitz, credits to his friend Shmuel, Bruno learns of a possibility of moving back to Berlin. As one last thing to do together before having to part ways, Shmuel and Bruno plan an exploration…

How their friendship grows. How two nine year olds experience life in extremes. How contrasting lives are on either side of the fence. What final adventure Bruno and Shmuel embark on. What happens next – one must read the novel to know.

I watched this movie after Psych Babbler recommended it, and I spent quite some time after that with a heavy heart. Months later, I decided I wanted to read the book just to experience the storytelling through a different medium. Again, once I finished reading the book, I found myself in tears. Simple, yet a powerful read, this heart wrenching tale will definitely leave anyone feeling sad.

This tragic tale is deep in so many levels – Bruno’s innocence, Shmuel’s virtue, and the way they find solace in each other, just to name a few. Although the author doesn’t write too graphically about the cruelty of the period, the way he delves into the tale through a nine year old’s point of view and develops his characters is enough for the readers to understand the underlying catastrophe.

It may seem a little unbelievable as to how so naïve Bruno is about what is going on around him, but that doesn’t in any way take away from the warmth one experiences while reading about the boys’ friendship and the pain that one goes through after reading about the disturbing incident. This is one of those stories that I know for sure will stay with me forever – it’s so awful that it makes my eyes misty every time I think of it.

Overall, a poignant tale that is a must read. Read the book or watch the movie – both are equally good as far as getting the essence of the story across – but definitely make sure you don’t miss out on this.

My rating: 5*.

*for the rating scale, click here.