The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas – John Boyne
Or rather, the story about the holocaust which was written with little or no research.
There are a few things that I hate in life. Here’s a couple of them: misogyny, racism, homophobia, when people assume that if you’re a vegetarian you like mushrooms and cheese, and this book.
Yes. This book. So rare is it that a book angers me so much that I actually want to write a bad review that I just kind of have to vent about this. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that I hate writing bad reviews. Someone took the time to write something and then loads of work went into publishing it and distributing it. Usually, if there is a book that I hate, I don’t bother reviewing it because, well, if you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all but this book angered me to the point where I was, in the immortal words of Sue Sylvester, lactating with rage.

rage

This book offends me on a level I have not known before and I need to vent about it. So, sorry internet, sorry John Boyne, but this is happening.

Berlin 1942
When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move from their home to a new house far far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence running alongside stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people he can see in the distance.
But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different to his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.

THIS COULD HAVE BEEN SO GOOD. WHY YOU NO GOOD? THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS. Warning – if there is a meme I can reference to deaden the pain, I will use it.

Let me preface my deterioration into madness over this story by saying that I am a massive history nerd, I love history, and a particular favourite subject of mine is the state of the world between 1930 and 1945. I find the whole domination of Nazi Germany incredible, the psychology of it all, that you would do such horrible things to other human beings because you were told to is astounding, and Hitler himself was a fascinating fellow, he had such a brilliant but twisted mind. I have been across Europe researching this topic, I have read loads of books, both fiction and non fiction on the subject. It fascinates me and I think this is why this book upset me so much, because this is being used to teach children about the holocaust and the lives of German’s during this time and it’s just so factually inaccurate and completely irresponsible that if I had a child in school that was being taught with this book I would march into that school and remove every copy of it from the library. It’s insulting to let such drastically under researched material be put in front of young minds.

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Anyway.
I know this is written for children and because of that I’m not going to spend any time picking apart the simplistic narrative but seriously, this was absolute twaddle. My face during the majority of this can be depicted as such:

emmastoneliproll

 

Thanks Emma.
Clearly there was no research or any hint of reality present during the creation of this. I’ve been to Auschwitz, I highly doubt the author has. Do you seriously expect me to believe that the son of a high ranking Nazi official has no idea who Hitler is or who the Jews are? Really? I know Bruno is only nine, but his entire life would have been filled with anti-Semitic propaganda, he and his sister would have been in the Hitler Youth, especially if their father was high enough to be in charge of a concentration camp, you could argue that Bruno wasn’t quite old enough for that, but his sister certainly would have been.There is absolutely no way that Bruno didn’t know what was going on. I know the whole point of the story is about being naive to evil and Bruno’s story could have been so interesting, what with him being blind to his father’s evil and the contradictions of what actually is evil, is following orders evil? Is loving someone who follows those orders evil? See, that could have been awesome.
This book was just too full of plot holes for the harrowing message to even begin to resonate with me. Here’s another thing, right, you expect me to believe that the fence of Auschwitz wasn’t electrified or patrolled 24/7? It was. And right,

cm-38964-350c9007e100b0

if it was so easy for Bruno to crawl under the fence, why didn’t anyone in Auschwitz just do that in the first place and escape? Plot holes. This book has them.

Like, I said, I’ve been to Auschwitz, it’s a period of history that fascinates me, I read a lot of books about this time and this just did not make the cut. This is not the sort of thing we should be using to educate children about this subject, it was far too fluffy, there is no where near enough horror.

Also, as a little aside, I’m a bit of a language nerd. Bruno mistaking Fuhrer for Fury and Auschwitz for OutWith are not mistakes that would be possible in German which is the language that he speaks. I’m not sure if the author knows this, but, the actual town is called Oświęcim. The Germans renamed it Auschwitz. It’s a German word. Bruno should have no problem pronouncing this.

Just don’t waste your time on this nonsense, people. If you want some actual good fiction about the holocaust, particularly from the point of view of a German protagonist, you should probably get The Book Thief or The Reader. Or any other book ever in the world.

Leah out.

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8 thoughts on “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

  1. I’ve heard about this book before, and was slightly interested in reading it, but I probably won’t now, unless I can find it for a few quarters at the used book store. World War II was my favorite period in history as well, and since I’m so poor at history in the first place, I’d prefer to read some accurate novels so that I’m not confused!

    Lovely gifs, by the way.

  2. I haven’t read the book but I’ve seen the film and I had most of those “huh?!” moments as well. It could have been such a powerful story.

    In other, related, news, I’m actually going to Auschwitz today….

    • I’ve not seen the film, I was hoping it would be better! Good luck at Auschwitz today, it’s the eeriest place I’ve ever been, proper horrible. Do Birkenhau too if you can.

  3. Just noting here that with Bruno mispronouncing the words- He’s a young kid. The book is focalized through the eyes of an innocent narrator- he knows what’s going on, but his view is rather limited. It’s very possible that “Out-with” could be what he calls it- After all, isn’t he German? And just because you speak a language doesn’t mean you can pronounce any word. I have a really hard time with the word phenomenon- I end up pronouncing it fem-in-nem-in-um or feminism or fen-neh-men-non etc. etc.

    It could also be deliberate in the way that they thought of it. For example “Out-With” could have a meaning in that it was out of the way. And people kept there were without anything. “Fury” could be because he was a bad guy.

    Nothing is ever a mistake. There is always a reason a writer writes something. Every word has a purpose, or else they would just cut it out. He doesn’t offer an explanation, because Bruno being the focalizer, doesn’t have an explanation. We have to use the knowledge that we have to fill the Innocent Narrator’s gaps.

    • I’ll be honest, my review of this is me being very pedantic because the entire book is grossly inaccurate, I may have been a bit harsh on the narration, because Bruno is only nine and I doubt he had any political ideology at that age. He would however (as German people who would have been his age at the time have reported) have known exactly who the Jewish people were, he would have hated them senselessly due to being taught that by his parents, school teachers and the media. That was part of what angered me, because it completely ignored a lot of the things that were going on in those days for plot points, which is kind of dangerous when your book is on such a widely taught subject.
      As for the mistaken words, it was deliberate on the part of the author, and I will allow Out – With, because like you say, there are words that people can’t pronounce, regardless of what language they speak. The whole fury thing I can’t let slip though, only because I speak German and I know that there is no such word as fury, (it’s not even really pronounced the same as fuhrer) and if Bruno had been saying fury, no one would have had a clue what he was talking about.
      I love it when books allow debates!
      Thank you for reading all the way to the end of the review even though it’s long and ranty!!

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