Tuesday, 30 September 2008

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

Title: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

Author: John Boyne

Number of pages: 216

Started: 29 September 2008

Finished: 30 September 2008

Opening words:

One afternoon, when Bruno came home from school, he was surprised to find Maria, the family’s maid – who always kept her head bowed and never looked up from the carpet – standing in his bedroom, pulling all his belongings out of the wardrobe and packing them in four large wooden crates, even the things he’d hidden at the back that belonged to him and were nobody’s else’s business.

Plot summary:

The story of "The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas" is very difficult to describe. Usually we give some clues about the book on the cover, but in this case we think that would spoil the reading of the book. We think it is important that you start to read without knowing what it is about. If you do start to read this book, you will go on a journey with a nine-year-old boy called Bruno. (Though this isn't a book for nine-year-olds.) And sooner or later you will arrive with Bruno at a fence. We hope you never have to cross such a fence.

(From the back of the book)

What I thought:

I am not sure what to make of this book. It was perfectly readable but I just could not work out what the point of it was. I thought the blurb on the back of the book (as above in the plot summary) was intriguing, but actually somewhat misleading because it could clearly have been summarised on the back of the book. But as a marketing tool it did work, I guess. Anyway, this was a children’s book but I think it was too subtle for a lot of children and there is every chance that a number who read this would have no idea what it was about. For adults, I think it would be a bit frustrating because it was very simplistic and it seems unlikely the child in it could really know so little of what was going on. But it is billed as a fable and perhaps simplicity should therefore be what it is about and trying to make it into something complex or more profound misses the point.

I did actually see the end of the book coming from a long way off and so that wasn’t really a surprise, although perhaps that says more about my cynical brain than being a poor reflection on the book.

You can read the first chapter here.

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