Book Review: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
by John Boyne

Publication date: February 1st 2007
Publisher: Definitions (first published January 5th 2006)
Pages: 216


The story of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is very difficult to describe. Usually we give some clues about the book on the cover, but in this case we think that would spoil the reading of the book. We think it is important that you start to read without knowing what it is about.

If you do start to read this book, you will go on a journey with a nine-year-old boy called Bruno. (Though this isn’t a book for nine-year-olds.) And sooner or later you will arrive with Bruno at a fence. We hope you never have to cross such a fence.

Source: Goodreads


I watched the film of this book several years ago and it has stuck with me ever since but I had never really considered that the story started its life as a Young Adult book. It’s short and the text is large so it’s a very quick read but for me it was a powerful one.

If you don’t already know, the story follows 9 year old Bruno and his family as they are relocated due to his father’s work commitments. It’s the Second World War and innocent Bruno doesn’t know much about what’s going on or why he’s had to leave his friends in Berlin behind.

As this book is intended for children, it’s simplistic, but I can’t help but feel that I wanted more detail from the author. I think for this reason, I found the film to be a lot more powerful than the book. The book lacked the description needed to fully immerse me in the story and while completely unrealistic, I wish John Boyne would write an adult version.

I had this book on my desk for a couple of hours this week and I received so many comments from people who spotted it. It seems to be a book that everyone has read or at least heard of, but with mixed reviews and I can certainly see why. Some people feel that the story is unrealistic and that it’s wrong to mess with such a devastating part of history, others appreciate the message that it tells. I feel that I mostly agree with the second set of people; despite having a story that may not be realistic, the events surrounding the plot are 100% real and it’s important to remember that.

Overall rating: “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas” is a powerful story that needs telling, even if the story of Bruno and his new friend is not realistic. The true events that lie in the plot were and are terrible and should not be forgotten so books like this are always worth a read. For me the book didn’t pack as much emotion as the film, but I feel that if I had read this as a child, it would have spoken to me a lot more than it has now. It’s 4 stars from me.

6 thoughts on “Book Review: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

  1. Rosie says:

    This book is so much better than the film; to your point, I think you maybe just read/watched them in the wrong order.

    If you liked this, you should try Night by Elie Wiesel. You should also consider Schindler’s Arc (Thomas Keneally) and The Pianist (Władysław Szpilman) is you liked the films, as both are excellent (and extremely sad) books.


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