The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a simple, but powerful story of the friendship between two boys. It is told through the eyes of nine-year-old Bruno, who is forced to leave his childhood home in Berlin, and live next to a concentration camp in Poland. He forms a friendship with Shmuel, a young Jewish boy, who by coincidence was born on the same day as him. By talking through the fence, Shmuel slowly explains the horrors of the war to Bruno.
I think that this is the most distressing story about WWII I have ever read. There are no graphic descriptions, it is all left up to your imagination, and it is this that makes it so harrowing. Everything is seen through Bruno’s eyes, and so I built up a very strong connection with him. Bruno fails to comprehend the situation around him, and his suggestions about how things could be improved are incredibly touching.
The writing is easily accessible, and feels realistically like that of a child. The happy innocence of Bruno’s childhood is a beautiful thing. I loved the way that his parents tried to shelter him from the war, but am not sure that this was realistically possible. Surely a nine-year-old boy living in Berlin would have had Nazi opinions forced onto him in school? There were certain other aspects of the book that didn’t ring true, I won’t go into them, as I don’t want to spoil it for people who haven’t read the book. I’m willing to overlook them, as the message of the book is more important than a few details.
This book made me smile, it almost made me cry, and then it shocked me, and left the plot running over and over again in my head. I think it will be a very long time before the characters in this book begin to fade. This book has gone straight to the top of my ‘books everyone must read’ list. This isn’t because it is the best book in the world, but because it is so accessible to everyone, and is the most powerful anti-war message I’ve found.
Highly recommended, but have some tissues handy.