Blue and white striped pjs
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John BoyneI hardly know where to begin bashing this book. Do I start with the 9-year-old boy and his 12-year-old sister, who read about 6 and 8, respectively? The imperial measurements (miles, feet) despite the German setting? The German boy, raised in Berlin, who thinks that Der Fuhrer is The Fury and Auschwitz is Out-With, despite being corrected several times and seeing it written down? The other English-language idioms and mis-hearings, despite our being told that he speaks only German? And that he believes that Heil Hitler! is a fancy word for hello, because he understands neither Heil nor Hitler?
So maybe these are fussy issues, and I shouldnt trash the book on these minor linguistic flaws. Instead, I can start with the plot holes big enough to drive a truck through: that Bruno, whose father is a high-ranking official in The Furys regime, doesnt know what a Jew is, or that hes living next door to a concentration camp. Or that the people wearing the striped pajamas are being killed, and THATs why they dont get up after the soldiers stand close to them and there are sounds like gunshots. Or that theres a section of fence that is (a) unpatrolled and (b) can be lifted from the ground high enough to pass food and, eventually, a small boy through, AND that nobody would try to get OUT through this hole. Or that Brunos friend Shmuel, a frail 9-year-old boy, would survive over a year in a Nazi camp. Or even the authors refusal to ever use the word Auschwitz, in an effort to make this book about any camp, to add a universality to Brunos experience.
That last is from an interview with the author that appears at the end of the audio version. I cant speak to most of what he said, because it was a lot of here are all the places that are hyping my book, but the worst part of it, to me, was where he was addressing criticisms: there are people who complain that Bruno is too innocent, too naive, and they are trivializing the message of this book. Um, no. Im not trivializing the message; Im objecting to his trivializing of the Holocaust. I find his treatment of the Holocaust to be superficial, misleading, and even offensive.
As an audio recording, Im pretty neutral. The narrator did the best he could with the material and there was some differentiation between the characters voices, but the music that was added... some chapters ended with appropriately-somber music. Other chapters had no music at all. Sometimes the music appeared in the middle of a chapter.
Two other incidental notes: first, normally you cant say anything negative about a Holocaust-themed book without being an asshole, because the books are so tied in with the Holocaust itself. In this case, though, I feel like, due to the fictionalizing of it, the book is far enough removed from Auschwitz that its okay to be negative about the book without being insensitive about the Holocaust. Second, this doesnt land on my run away! Save yourself! shelf, because thats more for books that are comically bad--books that I can bash with glee and mock with abandon. I cant find anything funny about what makes this book so bad; its just plain offensive and shallow.
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