Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Mayhem That Followed

After finishing Wine & War last month, my ever-present WWII obsession had gained a lot of momentum. So I finally picked up a copy of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne, which I'd been meaning to read since this past fall when it came highly recommended by someone in my writing for children class.
The perfect cover, no? (x)
This one was definitely worth the wait. I knew very little going into it and I'm glad for it, because it made quite the impact. I finished it a few days ago, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't still weighing heavily on my heart. I don't think it was until the final two chapters that I saw where things were going and when I did, I shouted, "No!" at the pages to little effect. It snowballed very quickly and I just sat there paralyzed with shock at the end.

What John Boyne managed to do was incredible. Seeing the war from the perspective of a nine year-old boy whose father is promoted by the Fury (Führer) himself? Brilliant. Little details like these painted the picture of Bruno's heart and mind perfectly. For example, at one point he salutes his father when turning to leave the room: Heil Hitler," he said, which, he presumed, was another way of saying, "Well, goodbye for now, have a pleasant afternoon.” From start to finish, Bruno thinks they've relocated to a place called Out-With. But watching what's happening in the changing world around him, conversations and events that he can't begin to understand, it doesn't take long for you to realize where he really is. His naivety throughout the story is utterly heartbreaking in contrast to the Nazis sifting in and out of his new home and their influence on his older sister Gretel. 

Somehow he manages to stay true to himself, because in his childlike innocence, he is living entirely in his own world. The world around him changes, but his doesn't. Perhaps that's why it's so easy for him to form an unlikely friendship with a boy in striped pajamas on the other side of the fence. 

In the afterword, the author details his belief that you can't really grasp the horrors of the camps unless you look at it through the eyes of a child. This story really couldn't be told from any other view point. Striking and poignant, it's a quick read that will leave you thinking for days afterward.

Which should have been a great, big, furiously waving red flag that three days was not enough space between me and and the book to watch the movie! Gah! Dear self, are you a masochist? Why yes, yes I am! Still, I have to wonder, could there ever be enough space between me and the book to prepare me for seeing it? I'm not entirely sure.
*sobbing... sah-hobbing... SOBBING*
First off, let's just get the unpopular opinion out of the way: the movie doesn't hold a candle to the book. So much of Bruno's voice is lost, his friend on the other side of the fence, Shmuel, seemed entirely too happy-go-lucky, and the suspense conjured up by the final scenes was completely lackluster by comparison. With scenes like these, I get ridiculously disappointed when they don't stick to the original text like a bee to honey. Cryptic analysis to avoid spoiling it: to me, what made those final scenes so gut-wrenching was having a very clear picture that there was absolutely no stopping it. The movie leads you on to believe that this is not the case, that there's an instant morality crisis, which sort of softened the blow to the detriment of the story. If you've read the book and seen the film, then please discuss!

Still, the movie is well worth watching. I had no idea Asa Butterfield was playing Bruno and as soon as I saw him I knew it was going to be 10 times more emotional than anticipated. The kid's been in Merlin, so... no elaboration necessary. Speaking of no elaboration necessary...  
This outfit... NOPE.
I know I have a lot of favorites, but Rupert Friend is one of my faaaaaaaaaaaaaaavorites! He's one I'm constantly blown away by and on the watch for. His performances are as varied as they are magnificent. Side note on magnificence: his cheekbones could cut diamonds. While I'm no stranger to seeing him play an unlikable character, he had me absolutely terrified in his accurate portrayal of Lieutenant Kotler. I won't beat around the bush... my stomach turned. The man (Rupert, not Kotler, that is) is so beautiful, you'd think it'd be easy to focus on that with magpie-esque interest. But somehow he never fails to make me forget about this and concern myself only with his character. Impressive! Okay sorry, I got a little distracted... I just like talking about Rupert Friend! Rupert Friend! Rupert Friend!

In conclusion, I think it will be a while before I revisit WWII. Forget the book hangovers I've had trouble shaking recently, this book has me in a flat out emotional coma I won't soon recover from! Definitely read... definitely watch... but my gosh... definitely prepare yourself.


  1. I remember when this movie came out... it looked fantastic and I wanted to see it, but I haven't yet. Stories like this are always so powerful that I can definitely understand wanting to take a break after reading.

    1. Yes, exactly! It's a lot to take in at once... So definitely watch/read, but maybe not both in the same week.

  2. i really want to read this book and see the movie!
    p.s. cute blog :)

    1. Aww thank you!! And you definitely should!