At the moment 10 Mke is studying John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. The novel is the tale of a surprising yet tender friendship set on both sides of the fence in Auschwitz Concentration Camp. As readers we understand the story through the naïve perceptions of Bruno, a nine-year old who moves to a place he calls Out-With when a man he refers to as the Fury offers his father a job as Commandant of the camp. Bruno is homesick for friends and family in Germany after moving to Poland where he laments his small house and the strange fence in the backyard that separates him from the people who wear striped pyjamas each day. This all changes when Bruno befriends Shmuel, a Jewish boy from the other side of the fence who Bruno does not see as very different from himself. When Bruno decides to explore further and join Shmuel on the other side of the fence, it becomes clear that Bruno cannot comprehend the horrors of the world in which he lives.
The novel explores themes of friendship, bravery, and humanity, often through exploring their opposites, and Boyne uses Bruno’s innocence as a foil to expose the hatred and injustices of the Holocaust. Bruno’s limited world view and egotism however, create a minimal picture of the circumstances making some historical knowledge necessary to fully grasp the book’s meaning.
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is John Boyne’s first children’s book although he has written adult novels. Boyne lives in Ireland and he studied English as Trinity College Dublin where he received the Curtis Brown prize. He has taught at both Trinity College Dublin and the Irish Writers’ Centre and regularly reviews for The Irish Times and The Irish Book Reviewer.
If you would like to find out more about John Boyne, go to his website.