The Boy In The Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

It is Berlin 1942.  When 9-year-old Bruno comes home from school one day he finds that the house maid is in his room packing up his belongings.  In short notice he finds out that his father has received a promotion and the family will moving to a new home far away.  Bruno is devastated as his best friends in the world are here and he loves his neighborhood and loves to explore, however there is no changing the plan that has been set in motion.

Along with his mother, and 12-year-old sister Gretel, they make the move.  Their new home is large and creepy.  There are no neighborhood kids to play with and nothing to do.  Out of boredom Bruno decides to go on an adventure and discover what lies beyond the property where his father has forbidden him to go…. and here is where he finds Shmuel, a skinny, dirty, little Jewish boy. 

Shmuel is also 9, in fact he was born on the same day as Bruno!  Bruno is excited and is already planning adventures in his mind of what he and Shmuel can do together.  Yet this seems to be a problem as Shmuel is on the other side of a large sharp wired fence and for some reason is always wearing striped pajamas, much like all the other men and boys behind this fence. 

As Shmuel tells his story of being taken from their home and made to live in a one room area with another family making 11 people living in the room, Bruno feels  Shmuel must be lying, surely that many people in such a small space is impossible! 

Bruno continues to sneak out to see Shmaul and brings him food which he devours, and they talk and talk and become fast friends.  While Bruno does not understand his fathers job, he does know that his father would not approve of this friendship so he keeps his adventures with Shmaul a secret.

Until one day Bruno and Shmaul have an idea… an idea that brings this book to a conclusion that pretty much stopped my heart and put a whole new twist on Holocaust literature. 

This movie was one that will stick with me for a long long time.

I seen the movie, The Boy In The Striped Pajamas before I read this book.  That is usually a taboo thing for me to do, but I had never read the story and one day thought it would be good to see the movie on Netflix.  The movie shocked me.  How can I think I know what a book is about but I really know nothing? 

In short time I had secured the book from my local library as I always appreciate the book more than the movie (well – almost always).  Yes time went by and I renewed the book twice and still had not read it.  In fact this week it was in the car to go back to the library unread…. and then when I was going to the chiropractor this week I needed something to read in the waiting room and guess what the only book was I had in the car?  Yup…. this one.

So – between the three appointments I had this week, I devoured this book to the point of no return…. and I mean that literally…. when I went to the library and turned in an audio I had completed, this book remained in the car.  No return not then anyway…. 😀

The Boy In The Striped Pajamas is a devastating read.  Lets just put that out there now.  I am amazed how we as human beings can treat each other so poorly – be so mislead in what we think is right… it breaks my heart.  Time and time again you can read fictional stories like this (that may as well have been real) as well as true stories that you wish were fiction. 

Hannah at Word Lily has been posting a blurb out of a book called True Grit, every day for lent.  Talk about your frightening statistics and some of them are just what I am talking about here… the things we as people do to other people – some due to race, background, gender, faith, where they live, the list goes on and on…

and so… back to the book.   I give John Boyne so much credit for writing this.  It is a hard story.  It is a maddening story.   I was just as impressed with the book as I was with the movie.  The innocence of Bruno is perfect as he meets daily with his friend and not understanding that Shmaul is in a concentration camp – or even what that would mean.

What this book shows is a friendship that no fences can separate.  It is a heartbreaking innocent story that could not have been told as well if the main character had been an adult.  It had to be a child… the innocence of childhood that makes this work…. and work well. 

The movie shocked me…. the book broke me. 

A POWERFUL read of historical fiction that will knock personal prejudices down to rubble.

I have a bit to discuss on this one...


The 2011 WHERE Are You Reading Map has been updated to include The Boy In The Striped Pajamas

I borrowed (and borrowed and borrowed) this book from my local library

49 thoughts on “The Boy In The Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

  1. A brilliant review! I keep meaning to pick up this book to read. I haven’t seen the film (I rarely watch a film and read the book).

    Have you read Five Chimneys by Olga Lengyel? It’s a true story of what happened to Olga at the hands of the Nazi’s… It truely moved me and will stay with me for the rest of my life.

  2. A film/book that i have wanted to see/read for a while now. Going on the TBR (PIE list!)

    Hope your back is on the mend – and you enjoy Room i did my review check it out 😀

  3. I don’t think I have ever been so shocked at the ending of a book before – you knwo the outcome isn’t going to be a good one but I didn’t realise it would end in such a horrifc way. It was just a shame I was sitting in the dentists waiting rooma when I came to the end of the book – a bit embarassing as I was in tears!! I haven’t seen the film – and I don’t want to – this is a book that stays with you.

    1. You do need to read this one Hannah, it will deeply move you – but yes, these are not books that you can read one after another…. I actually had a heavier read planned for next and I switched it out to something lighter…

        1. No – 215 pages and in the hardcover I found the writing to be slightly larger than normal. It went quick,I had it half way finished in the three times I was in the waiting room last week and I wasn’t there more than 20 minutes each time.

    1. After I seen the movie I knew I wanted to read the book… I think the books just detail so much better and I was so shocked about the movie I had to know if it would be as much so in the writing…. honestly –
      the writing affected me more…

    1. Both are well done Laurel – I think I am actually glad I seen the movie first as I usually am multi tasking when watching tv…. I think with a book I am more focused and it would have affected me even more… if that makes sense. 🙂

    1. It really hit home for me Aths – I am always culturally sensitive to home people treat one another… I hate (and I do not use the word lightly) the way people treat each other or use each other… or….well, I just am. 🙂

      The innocence of children should be an eye opener for all of us to see that until someone puts that in our heads (race, religion, economic status) we are all just people.

  4. I liked this book (haven’t seen the movie) though I didn’t love it as much as you. There are other Holocaust stories that I liked better. However, I did really like that this was done from a different perspective

  5. My son just watched this movie at school and said “Mom, you have GOT to watch this movie.” I told him I would…just as soon as I read the book. Like you, I can not watch the movie until I read the book first!

    1. I hope Angie you do read the book – and I hope that the book does not shy you away from the movie… I think they compliment each other…. by seeing the movie first I really dug into the book looking for deeper meaning –
      I think if I would have read the book first, I would have searched the movie -trying to capture every word – looking for clues…

  6. I think I’ve not been paying attention because this is the first I heard of this book. I went to goodreads to add it to my wishlist and found a lot of my friends have already read it. I’ll be looking forward to this one. Thanks for the review.

    1. Ryan – I heard of this a while ago but just was not that interested… I get so burnt out on war related books… but this is different and I think it will really touch you like it did me. I would love to read your thoughts on it.

  7. This book looks amazing – but I don’t know if I can handle it. You wrote such a fabulous review that I feel I owe it to myself to give it a try but it might be one that I have to put in the freezer (I wrote a post about that this week… do you remember the Friend’s episode?).

    1. Bonnie… LOL – yeah I remember the freezer episode in friends… I have actually looked for a clip on that before on you tube but found nothing.

      I hope you do give it a try though it is an important read and remember it is told from a childs perspective so it is not real harsh.

  8. I have a similar story to yours on this book, Sheila. I’ve had the audio sitting on my shelf ever since it was released, however many years ago! Don’t know why I’ve never gotten to it, but your review has inspired me!

    I haven’t seen the movie yet, either, but think I will listen to the book first.

    Thanks for the great review and the inspiration!


  9. This was an amazing novel…I remember reading it one afternoon when I was home sick and just sitting there crying for about 10 or 15 minutes after I closed the book….sigh.

  10. I haven’t read the book, but the movie is over the top when it comes to emotions. I agree with you that I can’t believe how people can come to a point in their life to treat other living souls with so much hatred.

    1. It blows me away Steve how time and time again in situation after situation we can do these like this… maybe not to this extreme…. but yeah, in some cases, yes – when you look at the news… yes… to this extreme.

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