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The boy in the striped pyjamas

20 replies

vorpalblade · 13/04/2010 08:59

Does anyone else think this is a ghastly book, or will I be shot down in flames if I explain why I hated it?!

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colnelcustard · 13/04/2010 12:31

i have not read the book i have seen the film i don't know what age the book is aimed at but i would say no younger than twelve. i did enjoy the film but was quite disturbed by the ending. wouldn't want a 'sensitive' child to read it particularly. i wouldn't mind reading it though.
is it not worth it

PacificDogwood · 13/04/2010 12:35

Oh, I am very interested..

I have recorded the film but not watched it yet as I cannot bear to watch anything involving hurt children, be that physically or emotionally .

Why did you dislike the book?

MamaGlee · 13/04/2010 12:36

seen film, not read book (usually other way around)

is it REALLYb a children's book?
I wouldn't let my children see the film

MamaGlee · 13/04/2010 12:36

I sobbed

vorpalblade · 13/04/2010 17:33

OK then, I'm feeling brave. Please don't be mean to me! I accept a lot of people think it's wonderful (indeed, the person who gave it as a present thinks so) and I don't want to upset people.

Yes MamaGlee it's a novel aimed at teenagers. My son is 12 and was given it as a present (Which I was fine about - my argument is not that it is too upsetting - more the reverse).

Spoilers below for anyone who hasn't read it.

My big objection is that all the great writing about the Holocaust (mostly by survivors, although not always) is focused on the people who were the target of the Final Solution, in all its horror. Jews, Romany peoples, homosexuals, we know the dreadful list. That's for a good reason - those are the people who had this done to them. I found it profoundly disturbing that a book which sets out to be horrifying (and/or emotionally moving depending on your point of view) and to show that the Holocaust was horrific almost beyond imagination does so through the means of a flimsy plot device about an uncomprehending Aryan child ending up dead by mistake. At the end, I felt that the reader is encouraged to feel shock and horror and sadness that this one little boy is going to die, not that millions were already, and would continue to be, systematically murdered. Oh, but that's OK, because he feels that the nice little Jewish boy is his best friend.

I'm also no expert but suspect it may be full of historical inaccuracies - all too slick and convenient.

I don't doubt that the author's idea was sound (communicate the story of the Holocaust through a single individual's story) but what a terrible, terrible way to go about it. No amount of homilies in the course of the story about how "we are all the same under the skin" make it OK.

My son, BTW, thought it was very sad, but was a bit underwhelmed after it had been built up so much by the giver. I haven't shared all my thoughts with him, and not sure whether I will do.

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BelleDeChocolateFluffyBunny · 13/04/2010 17:37

I think it's alot harder for anyone, let alone a child, to understand the numbers involved in the mass killings of WW11. There were millions. Maybe by personalising it, making it into one persons story is an easier way for children to grasp how wrong it really was??

vorpalblade · 13/04/2010 17:39

Oh I agree Belle, but to make that one child the son of a Nazi officer who got in by mistake because he wanted to be friends ... really? Is that the best way to tell the story? It is so unreal.

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GrimmaTheNome · 13/04/2010 17:54

Vorpal, I totally agree.

DD - (11) has just finished reading it. She got it from school - its marked Yr6 only. She chose it because it had been used the previous year for World book day 'mastermind' competition so she thought it would be good. (that competition was also open to year 5 pupils).

I read it because I'd heard of it and was interested, and my reactions were much like yours. A self-centred, rather stupid boy blundering his way to destruction.

DD (who is bright with very good comprehensions skills) had not understood all that was going on. She had certainly missed that the young officer flirting with the 12 year old sister was also having an affair with the mother.

No, its NOT a children's book. It says its about a 9 year old but isn't for 9 year olds. Teens at the earliest - there's no point children reading books that they don't understand. Even good ones, and I don't think this one was, for the reasons you've spelled out.

BelleDeChocolateFluffyBunny · 13/04/2010 17:55

Well, not really. There's alot of reports about normal German people helping the jewish people. I think it's just portraying the innocence of the children, the child of the officer wouldn't have really known or understood what his father was doing, to the Nazi's they were (wrongly) just following orders. They must have been so brainwashed into doing what they did that they didn't see it as wrong IYSWIM. I think that the book attempts to portray this.

vorpalblade · 13/04/2010 18:00

No, no Belle ... sorry if I'm not being clear here. I believe it is profoundly wrong, and dishonours the memory of all those who died in the Holocaust, to write about a fictional Nazi German child dying in a gas chamber, when you could write an 'individual' story about any one of the 1.5 million people who did die in Auschwitz. I think it's offensive.

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BelleDeChocolateFluffyBunny · 13/04/2010 18:03

Ahh, sorry, my fault, I'm trying to multitask and it's not going very well.

I agree that it is offensive, there must be other ways to engage a reader and teach them about this.

vorpalblade · 13/04/2010 18:08

I didn't mean to be rude . I'm not really cut out for arguing like this ... just feel so cross about it!

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BelleDeChocolateFluffyBunny · 13/04/2010 18:29

Noo, you're not rude I understand why you feel cross, they used to do this with the movie characters aswell when they used to make movies about the concentration camps, the characters were made up.

MamaGlee · 13/04/2010 19:08

That's a very good point vorpal

GrimmaTheNome · 13/04/2010 21:00

Another thing I really didn't like was fictionalising the Commandant overseeing the Final Solution - who was a real person. I felt as if the author was trying to manipulate feelings in some way, but whether to induce 'serve the bastard right' or some sort of pity, or give the impression the man ever realised fully what an awful thing he was doing I don't know - it didn't sit right.

MissM · 14/04/2010 11:11

I've not seen the film but read the book a while ago. I thought it was an interesting premise, and well written, but not the mind-blowing amazing incredible story it was made out to be. I felt quite uncomfortable by the ending, as it just seemed so totally implausible. The Jewish boy could have died (as he would have) and it would have been just as sad. The German boy didn't need to in my opinion - in fact, it might have been more powerful if he hadn't, but come to the realisation that his friend had (unlikely in real life to happen until he was significantly older though).

I suppose some of the point was that the Nazis weren't some kind of evil wicked race somehow different from everyone else, but actually perfectly ordinary normal people, with houses and families, but 'The Reader' does this much more effectively (although obviously not claiming to be a children's book).

basildonbond · 18/04/2010 19:45

vorpal - I thought it was hideous - badly written, sentimental, overblown - and all that ghastly business calling Hitler the 'Fury' (you know, Fuhrer/Fury - only of course it doesn't work in German )

I can't believe it got so much (mostly positive) attention - I suspect it's people being scared to be seen to criticise something - anything - written about the Holocaust - almost as if you critise it, you're an apologist for the Nazis

basildonbond · 18/04/2010 19:46

criticise doh ..

cory · 18/04/2010 19:47

If the boy could come blundering into the concentration camp without anyone noticing, how come the Jews couldn't sneak out?

GrumpyYoungFogey · 24/04/2010 23:05

No sort of story or film or "lesson" about the Shoah can be anything other than crude, white-guilt propaganda when delivered to schoolchildren.

Even in my sixth-form days an (extra-curricular) screening of Schindler's List was followed by the teacher denouncing the likes of Jean-Marie le Pen and self-righteous reference to his involvement in ANAL.

I dread the day when my my kids are old start getting this stuff as part of their "education".

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