The Boy in the Striped Pyjama by John Boyne


There are books that will have you hooked since first page. Books that are absolute page-turners. And books with endings so unexpected and so heartbreaking you’re left staring at the wall for hours or you’re left with a “bleeding heart” even days after reading it.

This book is in that last category. It had an ending that caught me by surprise and had me staring at the wall before I fell asleep (thankfully I was able to fall asleep) and had me walking around with a broken heart the following day. “A taste of your own medicine” is what reminds me of the ending. Only, the medicine is way too bitter and strong and mind/life altering.

It didn’t have a good start with me though. The first page said it was “a Fable by John Boyne”. Was taken aback why the author called his book a fable. My understanding of fables was that it is a story with ANIMALS as characters and where through the animals, a story of great lesson and truth is portrayed. Now, this Boy in Striped Pyjamas book was set in Auschwitz Death Camp at the time of the Holocaust with a German boy as the main character and a Jewish boy on the “supporting role”. Hence the author calling it a fable was so off for me as it implied that the characters are animals. Whether the author was trying to express in a figurative way that Jews at that time were being killed like animals could be one reason. Or it could be that he was trying to figuratively say the Germans at that time were behaving like animals with nary a heart. Either way however, I still find it offensive. And heartless.

Giving the author a benefit of a doubt, I looked up Mirriam-Webster dictionary, thinking that my definition of “fable” may not be complete. And this was what I found:
: a fictitious narrative or statement: as
a : a legendary story of supernatural happenings
b : a narration intended to enforce a useful truth; especially : one in which animals speak and act like human beings
c : falsehood, lie

So that I could read the book, I just settled on the first part of definition (b) – a narration intended to enforce a useful truth.

Reading the book was very easy. It was after all written and narrated as one would on a children’s book. The protagonist was a nine year old and supposedly it was how a nine year old would think. But I find it very unrealistic as I think the protagonist was too naive. As a nine year old, I don’t think I was as naive; or it could be that I matured early. However, my favorite book that had a child’s perspective “To Kill a Mockingbird” was supposedly from the perspective of a six year old and yet Harper Lee was soooo convincing on it that you wouldn’t for a second doubt that it was a six year old narrating the story. This Boy in Striped Pyjamas book was a far cry. It was like Bruno, the protagonist, was either only five years old or a special, autistic kid.

I’m not sure if John Boyne really intended for this one to be a children’s book, as sort of an introduction to knowing what happened during the Holocaust. But with the thing about the Mother and Lieutenant Kotner being in the plot however, I don’t think it’s for children.

One thing though, this book had an ending that would make me remember the book for a long time. And it’s yet again one book that would make you fervently hope there’d never be again one so evil who’ll think of totally wiping out a race from the face of the earth.

My Goodreads rate: 3 stars out of 5

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