Review: The Boy in Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

Published in 2006, Pages: 256, Amazon India Price: 239

“Very slowly he turned his head back to look at Shmuel, who wasn’t crying anymore, merely staring at the floor and looking as if he was trying to convince his soul not to live inside his tiny body anymore, but to slip away and sail to the door and rise up into the sky, gliding through the clouds until it was very far away.”
This is my favorite excerpt from the book.

The Boy in striped pyjamas is set in World War II, 1942-1945. It’s a book on Holocaust. And though you may hear/ read people saying the book is wrong. Author has done no research and such things. Just remember the book is a fable. So, let’s treat it like one. And the author has in fact done a lot of research.


It starts with Bruno, 9- year-old, coming back from school and finding out that his family is leaving the house he loves so much. He argues with his mother about not going. But as any other child in the world, he has to adhere to his parents. They move to a house which is sad and lonely according to Bruno. He has no friends to play with. And his 12-year-old sister, Gretel, whom he calls Hopeless case (not to her face) is of no help. So, he sets out exploring. He finds a boy in striped pyjamas sitting on the other side of the fence. On talking they discover they have same birth dates and become friends in an instant. But what Bruno doesn’t know that his friend is a Jew and him, a son of the commandant of the German Army, who has imprisoned them.


As a 9-year-old Bruno is brave, stupid and mildly irritating. He raises interesting questions. Makes you think hard about your beliefs and changes your perceptions. He makes you miss your best friends, and later teaches you how it’s okay to let go. But his list of problems as compared to his friend Shmuel is what irritates you. I can’t blame him though.

Shmuel, the 9-year-old Jew, is more mature than Bruno. Given his conditions, you expect him to be. I found him to be a better friend than Bruno. He teaches you forgiveness and value of little things.
One other character who touched my heart was Pavel. His goodness instead of his present condition is enough to make you believe in humanity. I do wish there was more of Pavel and Bruno in the book.


I did not cry. But my heart did break. And I was in shock for a day or two. The amount of injustice based on cast and religion shook my world. And I couldn’t help but wonder how easy it becomes to forget that we are same body and flesh under those labels and stamps of religion. We are born the same way and die in the same manner. As an infant, we all are same until we are labeled differently.

“Of course all this happened a long time ago. And nothing like that could happen again, not in this day and age.”
Or maybe it could. But that’s for you to think.