The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas - Book Review

A Book Review? A Book Review?! I hear the masses cry. Well yes. A Book Review. Why? Well, this is my blog and I'll bloody do what I please with it. However, in all seriousness, books and film are intrinsically linked and the vast majority of decent books will end up at least optioned by a film studio and in all likelihood, produced on some sort of budget, even if it is only a straight-to-DVD one. Recently I've also noticed 'professional' reviewers allude to the fact that they've read 'the book of the film' in preparation for the film but then only give their opinion on the celluloid version. Highly frustrating if you're a film fan and you're looking for something to thumb through. So for those that wonder and (as always) for the personal benefit of keeping my mind active, I thought I'd start to include brief book reviews of the literature that I read that either is already a film, is about to be a film or has pretty good potential to be a film. I'm not going to go back and cover everything I've read since the year dot that has some relationship to film so instead I'll start with the reading matter I've just finished.

The Boy In The Striped Pyjama's follows a young German boy called Bruno who, through various events, meets the titular Boy In The Striped Pyjamas on the other side of a long fence. Both boys are experiencing moments of sadness and loneliness in their lives and as their conversations graduate to taking place on a daily basis they soon strike up a close bond.

Jonn Boyne's book is a somewhat difficult one to get to grips with in many ways considering it is marketed as a children's story (indeed, it was in the kids section at my local bookshop and I had to find another children's book in order to take advantage of their 2 for 1 offer). The book is told from a 3rd person viewpoint but the prose the absent narrator uses is child-like and simplistic. Long passages of description are linked with multiple 'ands' and Bruno's innocent observances are relayed honestly rather than explanatory by the narrator.

The whole thing hints at a book which is trying desperately to introduce World War Two to children in a meaningful and relevant way that they will understand. This creates a bit of tension both in the book and perhaps more so, with me personally; should we really be 'dumbing down' such events for the youth of today? Can't we trust them with 'the truth'?

Equally within the book and specifically when it comes to the conclusion, Boyne struggles to keep everything on two levels; a child-like one and one where we, the adults, know what the children are really talking about. His end is the epitome of this and completely undermines his efforts previously. Without giving anything away, what is the point in presenting horrifying events in a child-like fashion to then present 'the twist' in graphic, real and, I imagine, for anyone under 13, disturbing circumstances?

The book gets an extra star for effort - it is not lazily or poorly written, Boyne has just made some bad choices along the way - and in essence it is a challenging read just as much as say, The Deer Hunter is a challenging film. But there is a definite tension within the book between writing for children and hiding things from them that are 'inappropriate' and writing for adults and wanting to produce that hard-hitting World War Two novel. In the end, the tension in Boyne's prose makes his narrative extremely difficult to penetrate and for me, this was an obstacle to getting much out of the book, whether that be shocks, education or even enjoyment.

Film Prospects

Boyne's book is already a major motion picture. It retained the same title and garnered largely positive reviews when it was released here in the UK in September 2008. It currently has an IMDB average of 7.8/10 and is on my LOVEFiLM list to see in the near future.

1 comment:

  1. I've had the movie sitting around on my to watch list, and just never been in the mood to watch it. Sounds like a meh book, but then again this could be one of those odd cases where it just works out better on film.