The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
This story was set in 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 from their home to a new house far far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence running alongside stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people he can see in the distance. But, Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than what meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different to his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.
I admittedly do not have an overwhelming retained knowledge of World War II and everything that happened leading up to the fall of Hitler. History and I have never been friends. That being said, and it being acknowledged this this book is a work of fiction, it was very enlightening, very moving, and left my heart aching in thinking of the reality that the book is addressing.
Right from the start, it was a very easy book to jump into. It seems to always be a struggle of mine in getting through the first 50 pages of back story until the plot thickens, but that was in no way the case here. From page one, you're off with Bruno on his experience.
I consistently found myself annoyed with Bruno and then backing up to it with feeling so bad for him. He was plopped into a life of luxury...maybe not of luxury by todays standards, but for their time, they were in the elite class. Yet, he always seemed miserable. Whether it be that his Dad paid him no attention yet Bruno idolized the ground he walked on, the life he had to leave in Berlin, his older sister (that I actually found quite entertaining even through all her bullying and brattiness), or his secret friendship with his friend Shmuel on the other side of the fence, he never seemed to find any happiness from his world.
The book read very quickly , as most of the dialogue and concepts were from the perspective of a 9-year old boy (I think I finished it in 4 days and that was at a slow pace). With his naivety and temperament, I envisioned him so much younger however than 9. Regardless of how sheltered a life he may have had, it's hard to believe he would not be asking more questions or with all of his enjoyment of exploring....finding more answers for himself.
What broke my heart throughout the book, was how much Bruno and Shmuel were so alike, so innocent, and yet they were so very sadly different.
There were little mentions in the book that I'm embarrassed to admit I didn't know what was being referred to (The Fury: Hitler; Bruno called the new place he lived "Out-With", which he was meaning Auschwitz where the Nazi Concentration Camps was). Regardless of my ignorance, it did make me curious for numbers. And what I didn't know before, but what I'll always remember now is this: At least 960,000 Jews were killed in Auschwitz. Other victims included approximately 74,000 Poles, 21,000 Roma (Gypsies), and 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war; and 10,000-15,000 members of other nationalities. Over a million people. While the book was made of fiction, it made me go out and find out some astonishing facts.
Maybe that's one of the points of fiction; spark and interest in the reader and see how long the flame burns.
There is a movie out, but I have not yet seen it. I need to find some time in this crazy life right now to pause and absorb. I look forward to watching it.