then, as Bruno got even closer, he saw
that the thing was neither
a dot nor a speck
nor a blob nor a figure, but
It's 1942 and we're with
Bruno, a sad little boy, who lives with his Mother
and Father and sister Gretel
in Berlin. Bruno's father has an important
job, a job that will take the
family away from the city to a strange new
house in the country.
In time, whilst looking for a friend in this
lonely new place, Bruno
defies his father and finds his way to a very
long fence. And a long,
long way down this very long fence he meets
a dot that becomes a speck
that becomes a blob that becomes
a figure that becomes
a person that becomes a boy in striped
pyjamas called Shmuel.
And from that moment, Bruno's fate
This book has won prizes.
Lots of them. And it's spent a whopping
45 weeks atop the Irish
bestsellers charts (The author is Irish).
Now a feature film is
being made by Heyday Films, for Miramax.
It's being directed by
Mark Herman, and is set for release
some time in 2008.
John Boyne's Holocaust fable is a
crossover title, being both for adults
as well as older children. Indeed,
it's even been repackaged for the
High Street to latch on to mature
readers. But in the same way that
it has changed its cover for
different markets, its story and its construction
seem to have divided the readership.
Bruno's world is described in sharp,
descriptive strokes. It is a cruel
world, brutal at times, where
discipline and obedience rule. Bruno's
father is employed by "The
Fury" and the new family residence is
based in a strange place called
"Out-with". He does not understand
why the boy on the other side
of the fence wears pyjamas. Nor does
he comprehend the dangers of
his friendship with the boy called
If you can suspend your disbelief
at Bruno's naivetey, if you can believe
that Bruno really wouldn't have
any knowledge of the "Fury" and the
Fatherland, and even the wider war
in Europe - which he most surely
would have, living in a Commandent's
shadow? - then you'll find yourself
being lead towards a most dreadful,
moving climax. Of course, it's
telegraphed from the outset
by the nature of the writing and our own
knowledge of those historical events. But
it's the way in which we
get there that moves us so.
Or maybe it doesn't. Maybe it
even irks you. You might find the whole
thing almost twee and insubstantial
in its conceit. After all, are we really
expected to believe that Bruno
can walk and talk for hours at a time
along that fence without any
guards ever noticing him? There is a
detatchment about the writing.
The author lets us observe events,
as if we are at arm's length
from the characters, and he creates a
a specific tone. But what tone
is that, exactly. Is it supposed to
be ironic, perhaps sarcastic,
or is it just plain patronising?
"The Boy in the Striped
Pyjamas" will get you talking and thinking,
whatever side of the fence you
end up on. Little wonder it's been so
well receieved and appauded
and why it's spent so very long atop
the Irish bestseller lists.
And no one can be surprised that a film
version is now in the pipeline...
This is a fabulous book for
schools, to get a class talking and learning
about the terrible events
in Nazi Germany. It could easily end up on the
regular curriculum for
children entering their secondary education.
As for the Gnome, he's not ashamed
to say he read this fable and
wept. Bruno's world is unflinchingly
cruel. His father is a monster.
His friendship with Shmuel is
his only salvation. When the final
act of this tragedy plays out,
you can't help but be moved. Not
just for Bruno, not just for
Shmuel, but for humanity itself...
Signed copies were available
at the time of publishing, as one
would expect. But there were,
in addition, 1000 signed and numbered
limited editions, with a revised
stripey sleeve. The title is very
finely printed on these, in
a slim font, and each copy has an
additional band, identifying
it as a special edition.
Needless to say, secondhand
values for these are climbing
all the time...
Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
UK Hardback edition...
Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
The children's paperback edition...
The author's home on the web...
John Boyne talks about his book...
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