Howdy bookies (you book huggers)!
Have I ever mentioned I’m from Texas? Well, now you know. I spent most of my childhood elsewhere though, so my upbringing isn’t really “Texan”. Back to the main point!
I read a book from my new stash! (Yes, it’s a whole “stash”! does a happy dance) It’s called “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas”. Maybe you’ve heard of it? I was really excited when I found it at a thrift store. I had watched the movie based on it. It was very close to the book’s content, I think. But for now, let’s give you the basics:
Title: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
Author: John Boyne
Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s Literature, Fable
# of pages: 216
I have been really interested in the Holocaust since the tender age of about 6 years old. I would hear about it, from adults. I would hear these experiences about how and why people were persecuted. But best of all, at least from my point of view, is that I would hear all of those things applied to me like: “Yeah. Someday that could happen to all of us.” Since I was one of the “us”, I took a personal interest in it. And I think that’s what really makes it seem real, what really helps you appreciate history. So when I found this book, I was pretty happy. I had watched the movie, which was ok. And of course, the book is nearly always better.
So about the book itself, the blurb reads:
When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move to a new house far, far away where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people he can see in the distance.
But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides taht there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.
This sounds great, right? But no. It was a disappointment. I guess, if it is children’s literature, it’s ok. But it’s not great. I didn’t really get into the story. It is told from a third person point of view with knowledge of Bruno’s p.o.v. But you are being told the story. You are not really experiencing it. In a way, I guess it feels like a general description rather than a story. And Bruno never becomes someone you can really identify with. I mean, you get to know a little of how he thinks. He is a small child, spoiled, but he hates the “Fury” and has not been taught/brainwashed by societal values of Nazi Germany, despite the fact that his father is a very proud Nazi commandant. Bruno is selfish and thinks highly of himself, but you don’t quite hate him because he tries to do what he has been taught is right. However, sometimes, by applying the manners he has been taught, he ignores the bigger picture. I suppose, though, that it should be expected of a nine year old. For example, he makes friend with a Jewish boy in the concentration camp. Bruno notices how hungry he is and how he is getting skinnier and skinnier. He takes him food, whatever he can carry on a long walk.
“[…] but the walk from the house to the place in the fence where the two boys met was a long one and sometimes Bruno got hungry on the way and found that one bite of the cake would lead to another, and that in turn led to another, and by the time there was only one mouthful left he knew it would be wrong to give that to Shmuel because it would only tease his appetite and not satisfy it.”
Obviously, since Shmuel is starving, it would be better to give him that little mouthful, but Bruno doesn’t understand that. Nor does he understand who the “Fury” is, why he must say Heil Hitler, why all the people on the other side of the fence get to wear pajamas all day and he doesn’t, and other things such as that. He isn’t really observant.
What I do like about this book is that it is that it accurately portrays the interests and some of the point of view of a little boy. Bruno doesn’t get along with his sister and tries to use words and phrases that he doesn’t really understand. He likes food and eats even when he’s not hungry. He likes to explore but doesn’t really do much of it. It limits the information you get to what Bruno understands/experiences. However, the story is told with an adult “voice”.
“‘He runs the country, idiot,’ said Gretel, showing off as sisters tend to do.”
“But still, there are moments when a brother and sister can lay down their instruments of torture for a moment and speak as civilized human beings and Bruno decided to make this one of those moments.”
Think about it. Does this really sound like the “voice” of a kid? No. And if a child (and most adolescents) were to read this book, he/she would become bored really easily, while and adults would probably become a bit frustrated with the overly simplified interests and limited knowledge Bruno has. My favorite part was probably the ending:
“Of course all this happened a long time ago and nothing like that could ever happen again. Not in this day and age.”
Because it is emphasizing the fact that it can happen again, that history is a lesson learn from.
So, it’s a book that sounds a lot better in theory than it does when you read it. I had high expectations, and this book failed them. I don’t think this book will really appeal to anyone. Therefore, I give this book 1/5 stars.
What about you bookies? How would you rate this book? Is the book or the movie better? In my opinion, neither one was great, but I think I enjoyed the movie slightly more than the book, making this one of the rare exceptions to the “the book is always better” rule. Which movies have you found that are better than the books?