I sometimes peruse Goodreads reviews, especially for books like Fifty Shades of Grey, because there are some hilarious “ZOMG this book is hottt!!!!” reviews followed by vitriol like you never would believe (well. I totally can). Never have I been so surprised to read vehement responses against John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. The anger is almost hilarious–“kids don’t really talk like that!!!” “How stupid were these people??? They HAD to know about the Holocaust!!!” etc. I like to call this response a classic case of Missing The Point.
Bruno is a nine-year-old boy living in Third Reich Berlin when he discovers his maid packing his clothes. His father, an officer in the army, has received a promotion from his boss, The Fury. They are moving to a place called Out-With, with no real town, just an army camp. A young soldier hangs around the house, befriending his lonely mother who drinks “medicinal sherry” and sleeps all the time. One morning, he looks out his bedroom window and sees a bunch of people in a yard wearing striped pajamas, so he goes to the camp and explores. There, he befriends a boy named Shmuel, and he discovers the power of friendship without understanding that he is living history.
Boyne does an amazing job of recreating the Holocaust from the perspective of a naive, ignorant boy who has been trained to be deliberately obtuse. So many people did not understand the Holocaust, because they were told lies and willing to believe the lies they were told. This is a profound fable about human nature, suffering, and truth. I highly recommend it, but be warned: the ending is shocking.