Synopsis: Berlin, 1942 : When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move to a new house far, far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people 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 from his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.
“If it wasn’t for the fact that Bruno was nowhere near as skinny as the boys on his side of the fence, and not quite so pale either, it would have been difficult to tell them apart. It was almost (Schmuel thought) AS IF THEY WERE ALL EXACTLY THE SAME REALLY.” – this is quite possibly the most important thing anyone can take from this book today. Still relevant, holocaust or not. Let’s not forget this this is first and foremost, a children’s novel. A book written for the target audience of children aged 10-15 to make them aware of the issues. So people that are getting pedantic about the “British phrasing” and metric/imperial measurements should just give it a rest for a minute, because and that’s not what’s important here.
Of course this book has its issues, no one is perfect. But the heart of this book lies in the incredible naivety of the young boy Bruno, who has grown up with such a sheltered and privileged life, that he simply does not understand the severity of what is happening in his backyard. How could he? If he’s never been told what all of this means, and is only fed the information that will cause him to follow the rest of the brainwashed society in supporting and continuing Hitler’s ways.
It is the youth in the narrative voice that makes this book so powerful, particularly when reading as an adult who knows enough about the subject to understand what “Out-With” and “The Fury” actually mean. Or when a man “falls down but doesn’t get back up again”… the exact words don’t need to be said. It’s in the simplicity and honesty of a child’s voice that the power of this novel sits, and is the reason why the outcome is so devastatingly heartbreaking to read.
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