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Friday, January 2, 2009

In Books: "The boy in the striped pyjamas"

This is, to my recollection, the first book that I've finished and where I cried. I had started reading it on the 31st of December 2008, on my way to the party in Cologne. I finished it after partying hard and sleeping all day, on the way back, in 2009. I accidentally sat down in first class, I was all alone. And when I closed the last page of the book, I felt sad, helpless, like there was a pain that had to come out. The conductor came shortly after, breaking me out of my trance. I had just read a book that told an awful story about something that really happened in Germany and it felt surreal to see this man in a uniform, speaking to me in German. I had to mentally pinch myself into today again.

"The boy…" is a book where you probably already guess what is going to happen from the first few pages. I had actually already listened to a review of the film a few weeks before, and hence knew a little about it. Looking at the book, the author, an Englishman, wanted to keep it a secret however, he said absolutely nothing about its content on the back-cover. Perhaps, perhaps, I would have been better off not knowing.

If you are going to read the book and feel more comfortable not knowing, perhaps you should stop here… I don't think it will really matter, but by all means, do.

OK. The story plays in 1940 Germany, which is seen through the eyes of a young boy, son of an officer in the army. They move away from Berlin to a place that seems depressing to him. There's soldiers all around his house and through his bedroom window, he can see a fence, and in the distance, people walking around in striped pyjamas. I won't go any further, these are plot-points, you'll learn in the 1st 20 pages anyway.

My sister sent it to me for Christmas, telling me that she didn't like it herself (she does this all the time, in case you're wondering). The boy seemed too smart for his own age (9), she thought. What frustrated me was that it was painfully obvious what was going on, but they dumbed everything down. It makes sense as you finish the book, but it frustrated me.

Worse, you know something bad is happening at the time and something worse will happen later. A sense of dread built up in me and I remember telling people how much I hated reading the book because of it. But it finished quickly, aimed at children of 12, I would guess by its style. Towards the end, I was hypnotised, hoping that what I expected, wouldn't happen. And when the book ended, I cried.

The end.

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