10 June 2009


"When Bruno returns home from school one day in 1942, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move from their Belin home to a new house far far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence running alongside stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people he can see in the distance. But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different to his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences."


I didn't know what to expect but I sure got more than I bargained for. I suppose it's hard to write a "boring" story about the Holocaust since even the topic itself is haunting, but it's always nice to come across an original take on the subject, which this little book (supposedly a fable) certainly was ... Even though the narration is in third person, the events are described in a way that a nine-year-old boy would observe them - the narration itself is quite simple and repetetive at times. The omniscent narrator, similarly to the main character, appears very naive and through their narration we discover how ignorant Bruno is about what is actually going on around him - he doesn't know what war is, he doesn't know why Jews are different, he doesn't know what goes on at the concentration camp etc. I understand that this naivety of the main character is often criticised, but I personally quite enjoyed this form of narration since it really adds to the effect of the story and a lot is left to reader's imagination. Even though this story takes place in an extremely horrible environment, it is far from graphical, but the hints about the actual going-ons are everywhere so it is easy to imagine what actually went on. As a fable, this story is full of symbols which could be discussed for hours, but I'm not going to go into that now (even though I'd like to some day) ... In conclusion, this may be a short novel, but it's really a very powerful and rather original. And the ending is definitely one of those that I'll never forget ... I admit it left me stunned - I had a hard time reading the last two chapters and afterwards I needed some time to be able to function again.
I recommend this book to anyone and I think it would make a great school read as it really provides a lot of material for discussion about a subject that should not be forgotten so easily.

Obviously, the book has been turned into a film, which I haven't seen yet and I'm not really sure if I want to ... I do and yet I don't. We'll see. Here's the trailer in case anyone's interested.

This book sort of reminds me of the Book Thief by Markus Zusak, another original take on the Holocaust, told from the point of view of Death (you'd be surprised what an amusing narrator the Grim Reaper can be, heh). I read it last year and loved it! Another novel with the similar topic is apparently The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, which is also meant to be really good, but I haven't read it yet (it's already waiting on my bookshelf though) - will report when I do. Click the covers for more info.


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