The Boy in Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
Book Review / Classic Novels / Historical Fiction / Political Novel / Social Issues

The Boy in Striped Pajamas by John Boyne, Book Review

The Boy in Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

Book: The Boy in Striped Pajamas

Author: John Boyne

Illustrated by: Oliver Jeffers


John Boyne

Setting: 1942 Berlin

Pages: 256

Price: Click the link below

Author Introduction:

Born in 1937, John Boyne was an Irish novelist. He wrote many novels and short stories that keep a poignant mark on the pages of literature. He wrote both for the adults and for the kids. His novels are published in many languages and are widely acclaimed over the world.

The Boy in Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
The Boy in Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

Some of his significant novels are:

  • The Thief of Time

  • Next of Kin

  • Mutiny on the Bounty

  • The House of Special Purpose

  • A History of Loneliness

  • The Heart’s Invisible Furies

  • A Ladder to the Sky

  • The Echo Chamber

  • The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

  • The Terrible Thing That Happened To Barnaby

  • My Brother’s Name is Jessica



The Boy in Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

Today we are going to talk about The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by him. It was published in 2006 and sold over 11 million copies all over the world. This novel was adapted into a film also and both are tremendously popular.  It is a historical fiction set against the backdrop of the gory holocaust.

Synopsis of The Boy in Striped Pajamas:

The story is told from the perspective of a nine years old boy Bruno. Bruno’s father had to leave Berlin with his family at the command of Fury. And they went to live at Out-With (Auschwitz),  a desolate, hopeless place for little Bruno. Bruno did not like the place at all. He felt depressed, irritated, and suffocated in his new house and longed to come back to Berlin. Finding nothing to keep him engaged in that new habitat Bruno started exploring the area.

There from his window one day he found a large number of Jews families, all wearing striped pajamas and matching caps. They were locked inside a tall fence that separated Bruno’s world from theirs.

 Being dejected and lonely in the new surroundings one day Bruno set out for the fence and made friendship with one of the Jews boys named Shmuel. Though his family was totally ignorant about his rendezvous he was very happy getting a friend.

Shmuel shares his misery with Bruno, and how his family was forced to move into this place. Bruno felt a similarity with his own life. In his childhood conception, Bruno could not understand their situation and their miseries and death threat. Samuel never disclosed the reality of their existence in real terms of it. Maybe he knew very little. But despite their polar opposite life, they became good friends.

 Now when Bruno’s father at the insistence of his wife decided to send the family back to Berlin the story takes a sudden catastrophic turn. Bruno being sad for his friend Shmuel wished to meet him for the last time. In his excitement to preserve the last meeting, Bruno took some audacious steps that proved fatal for him.

Bruno died at the end…holding Shmuel’s hand, both in striped pajamas.

‘You’re my best friend, Shmuel,’ he said, ‘My best friend for life.’

Though the death is not explained clearly, it insinuates the merciless killing of Jews during the reign of Hitler inside the gas chamber.

“And then the room went very dark and somehow despite the chaos that followed, Bruno found that he was still holding Shmuel’s hand in his own and nothing in the world would have persuaded him to let it go.”

Bruno was heard no more but his left-out clothes at the side of the wire fence were found. Then one day after much pondering Bruno’s father found the large gap in the fence through which a small boy could easily crawl underneath.

Major Characters:

Bruno: He was a 9-year-old German boy. He loved to read adventure books and explored exciting events.

Gretel: She was Bruno’s sister. She was 12 years old. She loved to play with dolls until Lieutenant Kurt Kotler came and injected strong national fanaticism inside her.

Mrs. Wisitzki: She was Bruno’s mother who did not like their shifting to Auschwitz, Poland but had agreed to accompany her husband.

Mr. Wisitzki: Bruno’s father was a commanding officer within Nazi Party. He took charge of a concentration camp in Poland.

Maria: She was the maid of the Wisitzki family. She was very considerate and intelligent.

Shmuel: He was a Jewish boy whom Bruno met on the other side of the fence. He wore striped pajamas.

Lieutenant Kurt Kotler: He was a young German Soldier who was a cold-hearted cruel person. He could easily kill a god, hurt an old man like Pavel, and torture children like Shmuel.

Pavel: He was a prisoner in the Outwith whose real identity was hidden as he worked as a butler. He was kindhearted. He was a doctor previously.

The Fury: He was Adolf Hitler. Bruno described his figure and manner when he came to visit his family with his companion Eva.

Eva: She was the female companion of Fury. She was kindhearted and amiable.

There are also other characters like Grandmother and Grandfather about whom Bruno went on talking and recalling.

Viciousness wrapped in the cloak of children’s story:

After finishing the book the only trauma that haunts me…How human beings can be so cruel to other human beings?

Though there is no direct reference to the holocaust, Nazi, Hitler, or Concentration Camps, the power of cruelty and inhumanity lingers in this novel through the insinuations of some characters and their activities.

As the story is spoken from the point of view of a little boy direct mention of cruelty is not found. Even when Pavel is brutally hurt by Lieutenant Kurt Kotler it was just mentioned obliquely. And here the author has shown his extreme proficiency in the respect of language restriction. But that restriction can not hide the ferocity of human instinct.

Who is the boy in the Striped Pajamas?

Shmuel was the Jewish boy in striped pajamas. All the Jews who were captured and captivated beyond the fence were wearing striped pajamas.

In the end, when Bruno went to meet Shmuel for the last time before going back to Berlin, he wore the striped Pajamas provided by Shmuel. Both are at the end the boys in striped pajamas. Bruno slid through the gap of the fence wearing the Striped Pajamas given by Shmuel and faced the same horrendous fate.

Alvina’s Verdict:

After a long time, I read a book that silenced me for a long time in deep contemplation. I cannot express what I feel and what it should be… joy and sorrow… of course, there was not a dot of joy…there was deep tangible pain piercing my heart.

John Boyne’s book The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is one of the best books I have ever read. And I feel I can never forget Bruno, I can never forget his friendship with Shmuel and I can never forget his death. His death will haunt me till my death.

And I want to express my hearty gratitude to Oliver Jeffers for the wonderful illustrations that he provides in the pages of the book to uplift its glory to an artistic height.


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Hi, I'm Munmun here and welcome to my book blog. I'm an English Teacher. But more than that I love to read books and write down my thoughts. I feel we can change the world by circulating the introspections of great columnists throughout the world. You are free to contact me at


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