Title: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
Main Characters: Bruno and Shmuel
Autor: John Boyne
Genre: Children’s literature, Tragicomedy, Fable, Historical novel
I wasn’t familiar with the name John Boyne, but I found a couple of good reviews about this book online so I decided to give him a try. I also thought it’s about time to change my genre since I’ve been reading romance/chiclit novels consecutively in the past few months (see my page for Books Read for 2013).
The story is about the two 9-year old boys (Bruno and Shmuel) who met during the time that they both looking for comfort in a place that they are not familiar, not comfortable and definitely a place that they don’t like.
Bruno is the youngest son of the Commandant and Elsa and has an older sister named Gretel who’s just two years older than him. All of them grew up and live most of their lives in a big beautiful house in Berlin.
Shmuel on the other hand, is an only child and came from a very simple but happy family in Poland.
The story begun when the Commandant was assigned to lead ‘Out-With’. A place where they keep and held all of the Jews as prisoners. Bruno and the rest of the family wasn’t happy when they moved from their big beautiful house in Berlin, to a dull small house in Poland where the Out-With is located.
The house and the Out-With is separated by a big fence, and the view can be seen from Bruno’s room. When Bruno first saw the Out-With from his bedroom window, the sight didn’t make him happy, but gave him goosebumps instead. All of the people from the other side of the fence are all boys from all ages and all wearing a blue striped pyjamas. They didn’t seem happy too.
Bruno never realized his difference from the people on the other side of the fence until he met Shmuel. On one occasion, Bruno decided to do exploring to their new house, since he can’t find any interesting to do and most especially he don’t have anyone to play with. He decided to walk near the fence and see if he can come across at the end of it and explore what’s in there. Bruno walked for hours that when he turn back, their house looks so small in his eyes already. He though about going back since he though that he may not really find any interesting thing to do in their new place. But before he turn around and start walking back to their house, he saw a figure coming at the other side of the fence. It looks so small at first… until the image got clear… and gave him a figure of a small boy, Shmuel.
Shmuel was one of the Jews prisoner living on the other side of the fence. He said he always go to that place every afternoon just to sit and think about things. Shmuel said that the soldiers went to them one day and brought his entire family in a train where his mother was separated from them and never saw her again. Bruno was happy despite of all the things that Shmuel said, because all he can think is he found a new friend in the middle of nowhere. He didn’t realized what the truth lies behind Shmuel story. All Bruno knew is that Shmuel is too skinny for their age. He also noticed that Shmuel eyes is always sad and empty.
From that day they met, they both promised that they will see each other every afternoon and Bruno always bring food with him, so that Shmuel has something to eat while their talking, not minding the fence separating them.
Until one day, Shmuel looks more sad and tinnier than his usual look. Shmuel told Bruno that his grandfather and father are both missing and he can’t find both of them. It’s been days since he last saw his grandfather, and now, his father is missing too. Bruno went home sad that day, ’cause he don’t know how can he help his friend.
Bruno went home and was greeted by a new news – he and Gretel and their mother is going back to Berlin, while Commandant will stay in Poland to lead ‘Out-With’. He met Shmuel the following day and told him the bad news. They then decided to meet again the following day and Shmuel will bring a spare of blue striped pyjamas for Bruno to wear, so he can enter ‘Out-With’ without any suspicion by crawling under fence. And by going inside the fence with Shmuel, they both thought that they can look for Shmuels father together.
The final day come. Though it’s raining heavily that morning, Bruno have decided that he will meet Shmuel no matter what. As soon as the rain stop, Bruno grabbed his boots and started walking going to the place where he and Shmuel met everyday. By the time he arrived, Shmuel is already waiting for him on the other side. Bruno changed his clothes and crawl under the fence.
For the first time, Bruno realized how sad the people look on the other side of the fence. All of them seems thin, fragile, old, lost in their own mind, and all staring on the ground with empty eyes. Also, there he saw lots of his father soldiers making fun of the prisoners and bossing them around.
Bruno and Shmuel did a little searching and exploring in Out-With, but they are both empty handed for evidence on where Shmuel’s father gone to. By the time Bruno is about to say his final goodbye and go home, a group of soldiers came to their place and asked all of them to march. Bruno and Shmuel was kept in the center of the old prisoners. They kept on marching with them, since Bruno and Shmuel can’t go out because they will find out that Bruno is not supposed to be there, and also, Bruno find Shmuel’s body shaking just by looking at the soldiers — it’s clear that all of the prisoners are afraid of them.
They march and march and march until all of them was kept in a very small room. Bruno thought that the soldier asked them to go inside the room for protection, because it seems that the rain will start to fall again.
A few seconds once they are all inside, the door closed — and the lights were turn off — and the last thing that they can remember, they’re holding each other’s hand.
And that’s the last day Bruno’s family saw him.
I never thought I will like this book. I was never a fan of tragic story or unhappy endings. This book definitely will make you think, will make you sad, and will make you think about the past and imagine that things like that really happened. This was not based on a true-story, but we all know that somewhere in our history — things like this happened.
I don’t know what to feel after I reached the last page. It seems like I got lost in my thought as well. This simple book with the two boys inside will surely capture your heart.
I will definitely recommend this book to my friends (which will start from posting it here in wordpress).
Hope you’ll read it too ♥
(P.S the story hit the bigscreen last 2008. I haven’t seen it yet, but will surely will =)