This book was seriously one of the saddest I have ever read. The ending is truely heart-breaking and shows that John Boyne is a literary genius. The book has 224 pages and was published by Random House.
The book is set in 1942's Berlin. The main character is Bruno, a little eight-year old boy. When he comes home from school one day he is told he and his family will move to a place called 'Out-With', which turns out to be Auschwitz. When they get there he has a hard time getting settled and misses his grand-parents and friends, who they left behind in Berlin. There are no other kids and the house doesn't give enough opportunities of exploration.
Although his father forbids him to go out exploring the grounds Bruno does exactly that. While on one of his exploring walks he sees a fence and a boy his age on the other side. This is Shmuel, who has been taken from his parents and is forced to work in the camp. Bruno doesn't know anything about what is happening in the camp and you get the idea that Shmuel is less ignorant of what is happening. They meet every day at the same spot and become best friends.
In the end Bruno has to return to Berlin with his mother and sister, but he decides, as a last adventure, to dress up in striped pyjamas and help Shmuel find his father. He slips underneath the fence, but once in the camp it starts raining and he wants to go back, but they are caught up in a big crowd that is marching towards a big building. It ends with Shmuel and Bruno holding hands, wondering what is happening.
I won't tell what happens in the epilogue, but I guess we can all make a guess.
This story is terribly sad and caused quite some controversy when it was published. Some claimed he was writing something outrageous by suggesting there were such little kids in a concentration camp, but he had prove that there were. A Rabbi complained that he suggested that some German people didn't know about the extermination of the Jews.
This book has really touched me, as has the movie. Sometimes you are disappointed by a movie, because the book was simply amazing. This movie however captured the intense feeling the book brought to me. This was one of the few books that really made me cry. I also want to talk about the movie, because maybe more people have seen it.
The movie makes some changes, especially to the last scene. It skips the epilogue and also shows you his parents reaction when they find out what happened to their son. It is an incredible performance by David Thewlis, who plays Bruno's dad. Somehow I couldn't hate him for what he did to the Jews, I just felt really sorry for him. I did hate Lieutenant Kothler however. When he kicked Pavel I just wanted to kill him.
It seems as if Boyne had some problems at the beginning writing as a child, but he got into it later and gives you a great insight into the child. There is a real paradox in the friendship between Bruno and Shmuel. Bruno has everything, but seems to know nothing, while Shmuel will probably die the first and knows it. Although it is a book written through a child, I do not think it is a children's book. Like St. Exupery's The Little Prince it will speak to adults as well. And the book raises questions about the second World War that a child maybe cannot understand.
I give this book ...
Have you read the book or seen the movie? What are your thoughts?