sexta-feira, 18 de março de 2011

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

An ironically ironic book. I gobbled this book down in one day. Yep, just like that. 
I didn't think much about it until I was done reading it and was able to stop down and ponder a bit on everything I had just taken in.
Books are amazing instruments. They have the power to make us stop, wonder, think and figure things out that we would have never given a second thought to if we hadn't taken the time to pick up that book, leaf through it, skim through it, delve into its pages head straight and find then yourself in a semi state of shock as you turn the last page. For me there is nothing more motivating - something that makes me want to change, transform myself, grow and accept new challenges in my life - than reading a book. And it doesn't have to be "THE book" - all it has to be able to do is mess in my mind and make me think when I am done reading it. I must agree with those that say that books are emotionally manipulative, because that is how I feel pretty much every time I finish reading a good book. This one was no exception.

Like many other books related to Jews, the holocaust, concentration camps, etc. that I read; it spoke to me a lot. But this time it spoke to me in a very different way. John Boyne makes very little mention of the horrors of war and shows a different angle of the story as we know it. 
The book is written in an easy and simple language; it's concise and makes you get the point in a very subtle way. Out of it all though, what I liked the most was the end. Why? Because it's an end that speaks the truth and makes you see the main picture; a picture that so many writers tried to pass to their readers yet failed. Yes, it's heartbreaking end but I couldn't think of a better way to finish it myself even if I tried. 

Book Review: Irish writer John Boyne's fourth novel is the first he has written for children. It's a touching tale of an odd friendship between two boys in horrendous circumstances and a reminder of man's capacity for inhumanity.
Bruno is a nine-year-old boy growing up in Berlin during World War II. He lives in a five-storey house with servants, his mother and father and 12-year-old sister, Gretel. His father wears a fancy uniform and they have just been visited by a very important personage called the Fury, a pun which adult readers should have no trouble deciphering. As a consequence of this visit, Bruno's father gets a new uniform, his title changes to Commandment and, to Bruno's chagrin, they find themselves moving to a new home at a place called Out-With.
When Bruno gets there he is immediately homesick. He has left his school, his three best friends, his house, his grandparents and the bustling street life of urban Berlin with its cafes, fruit and veg stalls, and Saturday jostle. His new home is smaller, full of soldiers and there is no one to play with. From his bedroom window, however, he notices a town of people dressed in striped pyjamas separated from him by a wire fence. When he asks his father who those people are, he responds that they aren't really people.
Bruno is forbidden to explore but boredom, isolation and sheer curiosity become too much for him. One day, he follows the wire fence cordoning off the area where these people live from his house. He spots a dot in the distance on the other side of the fence and as he gets closer, he sees it's a boy. Excited by the prospect of a friend, Bruno introduces himself. The Jewish boy's name is Shmuel. Almost every day, they meet at the same spot and talk. Eventually, for a variety of reasons, Bruno decides to climb under the fence and explore Shmuel's world.
After some initial tonal clunkiness where you can almost detect the author thinking "how do I write a child", the story is an effortless read that puts you directly into Bruno's worldview. It is elegant story-telling with emotional impact and an ending that in true fairytale style is grotesquely clever.
Bruno's friendship with Shmuel is rendered with neat awareness of the paradoxes between children's naive egocentricity, their innate concept of fairness, familial loyalty and obliviousness to the social conventions of discrimination. 

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