Sunday, 28 June 2015

My Review of The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas

For the PopSugar topic of "a book that makes you cry," I added  book that I have wanted to read for a long time, but just have never seemed to have gotten around to. The book I chose was The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne.

I'm not entirely sure where to start with my review, but I'll start by being honest and admitting that I hated this book. Hopefully I will be able to coherently explain as to why.

The first few pages of the book I found the writing style to be extremely strange and it took me a while to get into the flow of how Boyne wrote. I also found a lot of the metaphors and similes extremely odd, for example on page 7 we had this simile " 'Say Goodbye to them?' he repeated, spluttering out the words as if his mouth was full of biscuits that he'd munched into tiny pieces but not actually swallowed yet."  To me that just seems really long winded and awkward.


The descriptions of some of the characters physical actions are also odd, the fact that Bruno (who is 9) feels his arms stretching out at his sides in surprise, is something that my toddler does when he's surprised or excited. A child of 9 would have grown out of this a long time ago. Also the amount of people whose mouth formed the shape of a O is quite ridiculous. There are so many better ways of describing this facial expression such as " his jaw dropped in surprise," "her mouth was agape" I could go on, but you get the picture.


Another thing I found infuriating was Bruno's mispronunciation of Auschwitz and Fuhrer. It felt as though Boyne was just trying to avoid actually using the words in his book. It is just plain unbelievable that a child of one of Hitler's top men would be allowed to go on in this manner, oh and don't let me forget that he believes that saluting and saying "heil Hitler" is a way of saying "goodbye and I hope you have a nice day".....yeah....oh, oh and a high ranking Commandant's son that does not know what or rather who a Jew is. I do understand that a lot of people at the time were sadly unaware of what was happening around them, but as someone who is living right next to Auschwitz and who is surrounded by soldiers, it just seems unbelievable in my opinion that Bruno would know so little. My feelings are that Boyne used this time period and the atrocities that happened to write his "fable" but was then too scared to actually use any form of correct representation of what was actually going on.


As children of a Commandant, there is no way they would have been allowed to have been out of education for even a short amount of time or some form or military style training. By 1943 (which is the year I'm guessing this is set in due to Bruno being 9 and born in 1934) the Hitler Youth and the subdivisions were recruiting children as young as 10, so though Bruno wasn't quite old enough, he would have being prepared for it and Gretel would definitely have gone as I believe only 10 or 20% of German youths avoided being drafted.

SO MUCH REPETITION (is it annoying yet)

I felt that the children were portrayed in such a way that they appeared much younger than any child, especially in a time of war, would seem. Children are extremely intelligent and know a lot more than any adult would like to think. Their characters just didn't seem to fit the ages that were given as 9 and 12, I don't feel that Boyne can write children very well at all, the way they talk, think and act just don't seem natural.


And we come to the ending, if you don't want to be spoiled, stop reading here...Ok the ending for me came completely out of nowhere and was surprising, however I am apparently the only person who hadn't been spoiled for the ending as even my husband knew what happened and he has neither read the book or seen the film. I did not cry at the tragic end as I'd not felt any connection to any of the characters and I felt that though yes you should definitely mourn the loss of one boy, the book almost sidelines the fact that millions of people died. Even the final sentences were kind of insulting "Of course all this happened a long time ago and nothing like that could ever happen again. Not in this day and age."

Did I mention - SO MUCH REPETITION (Ok I'll stop now)

The only part of the book that I actually found quite interesting was the implied affair between Bruno's Mother (who was never even given a name) and Lieutenant Kotler. But we never really get anything in a way of payoff as we're following the story through the eyes of a child. All that happens is that Kotler is sent away, whereas I would have thought he would have suffered an "accident" but maybe that's just me.

I do kind of feel that I am cheating using this book as the one that made me cry as it did not. I am going to stand by it as I could cry with anger and frustration at how history has been used to produce this book. There are even now more things that I could comment on (the fence not being electrified, no guard patrols, a child in Auschwitz being able to sit around all afternoon without anyone noticing, the fact that that child was alive, the fact there was a way under the fence and not one person tried to escape) about how much I dislike this book, but have chosen to only include the most prevalent in my mind while writing this.

I originally gave this book 2 stars on Goodreads, just due to the surprise ending (for me) and then I dropped it to 1.5 and now as I've been writing my review I have decided it is only a 1 star.
I started reading this book on the 23rd of June 2015 and finished it on the 26th of June 2015

1 comment:

  1. I think the category "a book that makes you cry" is a dumb addition to the PopSugar challenge on their part. I would assume that the point of the challenge is to read new books, to get exposure to things you haven't read before. How do you know if something makes you cry if you've never read it before? This is actually the first negative review of this book I've seen, and I'm kind of glad I have seen it. I've noticed this pattern that people are afraid to give a negative review to a Holocaust book, except maybe Jews, and that's because many people in the Jewish community think that too many books (especially children's books) about being Jewish are also about the Holocaust (not that they don't think it's important, but they think there is more to the Jewish identity than the Holocaust). I find your idea about the author seeming afraid to use the words "Fuhrer" and "Auschwitz" interesting. Why write a book about this subject if you can't bear to use those words?