Tuesday, 13 July 2010

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

I'm not going to give an outline of this book as I think most people by now have at least a vague idea of what its about.

I had to have the right frame of mind reading this book, I had read about the naivety of Bruno and yes, I agree that a boy living in Berlin at that time with a Nazi father would of course know the word Jew and of course he would know what the Star of David and Hitler looked like. So with this in mind I read the book as I might a fable as intended rather than historical fiction. Aside from a few times when I did think “Oh come on, as if he would say that”, the story as a fable I think works rather well.

I am not a great fan of children/YA books but I did like the voice of Bruno and for the most part I think he spoke very much as a nine year old boy would speak. I liked Bruno's observations about his sister and his new surroundings and the friendship between the two boys somehow worked. But I found some of his repetitions and mis-pronunciations of words a little tiresome after a while.

That said I did not see the ending coming and when it did I was really shocked, for this reason this is not a book I am likely to forget in a hurry.

The film I preferred. The script took out Bruno's mispronunciations and unusually for a book- to-film adaptation, there are a lot of elements added to the overall story. Bruno is not as naïve as he is in the book as some of the horrors are added to the story and they also made his tutor a frothing Nazi who tries his best to indoctrinate Bruno and his sister into Hitler's way of thinking.

The best addition to the film though was Bruno's mother and father. The script allowed for both characters to be more rounded and you get to watch a breakdown of a marriage as Bruno's mother becomes more and more appalled with what she can see happening just over the fence and the effects of this on her children. This was achieved by taking some of the story away from Bruno's point of view, something which could not be done in the book.

Overall I liked the story but didn't love it.

Verdict – both book and film 3/5

Posted by Jess

This also qualifys for the read the book watch the movie challenge hosted over at C.B James


  1. I read this last year and while I enjoyed it, I wasn't wowed by it and, thus, never saw the movie. I think I will now, though. Thanks for the review!

  2. I didn't realize this was a movie, too. Maybe I will just watch it instead of reading it, as it doesn't sound like the book is a must read.

  3. I think is the first review of this book where I have seen it referred to as a YA novel and where the reader hasn't really loved it. I am pleased though, its given me a new perspective on the book

  4. Zara - I completely agree, I just wasnt 'wowed' by it at all but I didnt dislike it either.

    Brizmus - its a very quick read as its only around 100 pages and some people have loved it so if you see a library copy its worth picking up but I wouldnt go out of my way to find a copy.

    Diane - I should have said in the review (might edit it in fact) Im keeping my copy for my son as I think its a good introduction for a child around 8-10 to that whole era so the book for me is not without merit.

    Becky - Ive read some reviews where the blogger has torn it to pieces ;)

  5. I loved the book, but found it very emotional. That makes me scared to watch the film as I imagine myself crying through the whole thing. It is good to know that Bruno is less naive in the film, as I did think that was the biggest problem with the book. I'll get round to watching it one day (when I can get the DVD and watch it on my own without people to see my tears!!)

  6. Jackie - I thought the end was done very well in the film, in fact it was terribla watching in it as I knew what was going to happen.

  7. I loved both the film and book - the book slightly more than the film as my imagination pictured even more horrors than the film showed. A book I think all children should be encouraged to read. Thanks for your thoughts.

  8. Hi Jessica, What a coincidence, thankyou for stopping by and commenting about my review.
    I was very interested to read your perspective. I really had no idea this was considered a YA book, does the author actually state that anywhere?
    By the way I thought we were already mutual followers but it seems I just had a google reader subscription, not quite the same. I have rectified this and am now your latest follower :)

  9. Lindy - its more of a childrens book aimed at around the ages 8-10, theres a few interviews online with the author where he talks about this. This was his first childrens book as all his other books are adult fiction. It will be interesting to see where he takes his writing next.

    If your interested theres an interview with the author here on the BBC world servies where he gets a bit of a grilling by the children in the audience


  10. Jessica - What a surprise, I doubt either my husband or I would have considered reading it if we had known that. It is strange how departmentalising something can do that! I initially put the title on my reading list because of the Lovereading Books of the Decade that I wrote about in May.
    Thanks then for the info and the link

  11. Lindy - I was surprised when I found out the Book Thief was classed as YA and like you I doubt I would have read that if Id known. Just goes to show really.

  12. Really, that as well! Again I am surprised. As a librarian I have never liked the term young adult as I think children should just read what they feel ready for without too much direction. These labels can be off putting.

  13. I really enjoyed this book, and it has still stuck with me even after quite a bit of times has passed since I read it. Just FYI . . . the reason it is classified as YA is because the main character is of that age. I'm going to go out on a limb here and recommend that you consider additional "YA" titles! You may be surprised with what you will find!! :)

  14. Tif - there are quite alot of good YA titles out there but its just the style of writing that I dont particulary like (but then Im not the target audience) I didnt get on with the dark materials or Harry Potter for this reason. I did like the striped Pyjamas for this reason.

  15. Well, I'm glad you enjoyed it and here's to hoping you continue to find little gems along the way!! :)

  16. I just finished this one and though it is well written, I was a bit frustrated by Bruno. It sounds like the film did a better job rounding the story out.