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Just finished

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne.

A good book to bring the horrors of the Holocaust to the attention of young teenagers - although I still think nothing beats (the non-fiction) Diary of Anne Frank for that purpose.

Warning, possible SPOILERS below:

I found this to be a good book for the most part and well written, and while it is meant for younger readers, it is still readable to an adult. However, I have some problems with it. I do realise the story is a parable for young teens, and therefore not totally realistic, but this irked me anyway. Maybe I wasn’t in the right mood to read a parable – but there was nothing in the blurb that indicated that is was anything but a novel anchored in reality, and therefore I read it as such.

The first is that I found hard to believe is that the nine year old protagonist, Bruno, could be so terribly naive to never realise what was really going on inside the Auschwitz fence that was literally a few meters away from his house. For a normal boy he would have had to have lived a very sheltered life to not realise what was happening. His behaviour and reactions are really more like those of a younger child, as are some of the things coming from his sister. Also, neither Bruno or his sister - children of an important SS officer - are members of the Hitler Youth, which is hard to believe, but that would of course have collapsed the whole premise of the story. The only way to make this innocence believable is to imagine Bruno as a synecdoche standing for that (surprisingly large) part of the German public who seem to have been completely ignorant or in denial of the horrors of genocide that were sometimes being committed right under their noses.

Another point I found hard to believe was the ease with which Bruno was able to get into the Auschwitz camp. If security had really been than lax and the fence that badly constructed, prisoners would have been able to escape.

So when you read this book, for full impact take Coleridge's advice and suspend your disbelief and you can quite easily look past those parts of the story that don't add up.


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