Written by John Boyne

Published by David Fickling Books, September 12 2006

My star rating: 4 stars

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 to a new house far, far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people 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 from his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences. (Goodreads)

How I hadn’t heard of this book until recently is a mystery. It was originally published back in 2006 and apparently there’s a movie as well! This book is a little difficult to review so I will do my best to keep my thoughts in order.

First of all, it was really interesting to read a book surrounding a concentration camp from the perspective of a young child. Bruno is 9 years old and leads a very sheltered life. He lives in a nice house in Germany with his sister, mother and father who is a Commandant. Bruno’s only concern is school and his friends. This was a time where children were seen and not heard, and there was never any real reason to explain the horrors of war and what was being done to the Jewish people of the world. His father was working very closely with Hitler (who even came to the house for dinner and Bruno called him the Fury) and then they were transferred to Auschwitz for his fathers job. Bruno had no real idea what Auschwitz (or as he called it Out-With) was but he could see the huts, long fences, and people walking around with striped pajamas. Bruno tried to hard to ask questions and figure out what was going on, but he was continuously swept under the rug.

Seeing Auschwitz (Out-With) from the eyes of an innocent child was so heartbreaking. He couldn’t understand what was going on and why all of it was happening. Where he saw people, his father and the soldiers saw Jews. Where he saw kindness and life, his father and the soldiers saw disgust. In one particular scene, Bruno was asking his father who the people were behind the fence and his fathers reply was:

“Those people… well, they’re not people at all, Bruno”

This sickened me because it was so true to how they thought then. And then there’s Bruno, who only saw people and not what they were. It was so sickening to see that a child is so innocent and is taught these awful ways of hate. This line caught me so hard I had to stop and take a break from reading.

At times this book was a little difficult to get through, not because of the subject matter but because it was from a child’s perspective. It was very true to how a child thinks though, but as an adult reading it got a little repetitive and boring at times. And I do wish that we got more from the friendship between the fence. They talked for quite some time but we really only got a few chapters focusing on their conversations. But given the circumstances it’s somewhat understandable.

And the ending. Dear god the ending made me so angry!!! When the subject matter of a book is dealing with a concentration camp, the ending is obviously not going to be all sunshine and rainbows, but…….. sigh.

All in all this was a quick read that went straight to my heart and I think I may give this one to my 11 year old daughter to read. I think that it’s very important to read about this time in history and remember how they suffered and survived.

Until next time, happy reading!