Monday, May 25, 2009

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

First published in 2006.

If you start to read this book, you will go on a journey with a nine-year-old boy named Bruno. (Though this isn't a book for nine-year-olds.) And sooner or later you will arrive with Bruno at a fence.

Fences like this exist all over the world.

We hope you never have to encounter one.

Having On Demand is a dangerous thing. A couple of button clicks and I can have a new release playing on my TV. I kept seeing the trailers for the movie version of this book and eventually my curiosity got the better of me. I watched it and felt like my heart was being ripped out of my chest and lit on fire by a flame thrower. Now, I'm a crier at movies but usually it's a few tears that can easily be wiped away. Here it was full-on body-wracking sobs. The ending was just . . . horrible.

I was in the middle of reading another book when I watched that and once I finished that, I picked up this one so I could compare. It's a very fast read and it's a story kept in its simplest terms because of the fact it's told from the POV of a nine-year-old boy. It couldn't get more in depth because it wouldn't have stayed true to the voice. But I just don't think this book had as much impact at its movie counterpart.

I think the deviation from Bruno's POV in the movie, the brief glimpses into his mother's and father's world, made the impact of the ended that much more bitter a pill to swallow. The emotion was that much more intense and the passivity of Bruno was watered down with the lives of those people around him.

It's not like the book wasn't good. It's wholeheartedly unique in the fact that it's telling a much-told story from a very different, and naive, perspective. In the interview at the end of the book, Boyne comments on people asking how Bruno wouldn't know what was going on and where he was. Boyne's response was that adults didn't have that kind of enlightenment and didn't know what was going on until the liberations. How would a sheltered nine-year-old boy know then? Very good point.

But the ending . . . while the movie remained true to the book, I just felt the book lacked the same kind of impact. Had I not seen the movie and read the book first, I don't know if I would have grasped what just happened at the end because the insinuation of what was going on was so passive. Which was the point of the book but, in my eyes anyway, that tempered it a bit.

Yes, it's very sobering to read what happened to Bruno but being able to see the actions and reactions of those around him like the movie showed allowed for a little more depth and a little more understanding of what was going on around him. Again, not having that information was the point of the book. You are looking at this insane world through the eyes of a nine-year-old. You're not supposed to know all that was going on. And I don't think you truly know what's going on even though the end. The movie spells that out for you. I guess that's just something I need for greater impact.

I want to see the reactions of his parents and more of his sister and just what kind of solder Lt. Kotler was because it rounds out the picture more. I don't know how mature and aware your average nine-year-old is but Bruno must have lived a very sheltered and spoiled life for the way he acted and how he didn't notice what was going on around him (the smell at the camp alone, which in the movie he reacted to, in the book it was never mentioned, or the way he kept noticing how skinny Schmuel was and how hungry the boy kept saying he was and when Bruno tried to bring him food, he would get "peckish" and eat it all on the way, that really bothered me, at 9 I would think the kid would know better). The movie gave him a little more credit in the maturity department. There was a little more there to work with. Bruno was more receptive.

The intent of the book hit its mark. It told a unique story from a unique perspective. I just happened to like the movie better. Walking away, I felt more from the film than I did the book.


Steph Su said...

I've thought about reading this often, but you say you actually liked the movie better? Wow, that's a rare occurrence. I'm not really a fan of book-turned-movies, but I might give this one a try. Thanks!

prophecygirl said...

I love both the book and the movie. I think the movie is one of the best adaptations I've seen, and the ending is so much more shocking.

Donna said...

I think the only other movie I liked better than the book was Stardust. In this case, they both had their benefits but I felt the movie carried more of a punch but I'd definitely recommend them both.

Amy said...

hmmm, I've heard mixed things about the movie, but I might give this book a shot! Fantastic usual. Oh, and I never have enough time to read too! Luckily, summers coming so I can catch up.

Donna said...

Thanks, Amy!

shawnte parks said...

thanks, great review!!

ThePopesWife said...

I find it interesting the way you reviewed this book. I'm not a huge fan. I didn't finish it, though, but I was disappointed with the technical language aspect of it. He mistook the camp for "Out With" and I was automatically put-off. It made it clear to me that it was an Englishman trying to write in the voice of a German child, and so I couldn't continue on. I'm interested to see your opinion about it, though, because I did watch the movie. (I was fascinated by the poster.) I'm sure I would have agreed with many of your points based on what I DID read.

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