Bruno is nine years old, and, like most children, he is completely oblivious to anything that doesn’t directly affect him. All he is concerned about is that his father, a Commandant in the German army, is moving him and his family away from their friends, family and comfortable home in Berlin to a run-down house in the middle of nowhere, where the only thing of note is a fence that runs for miles and separates them from the people who live on the other side, the people in the striped pyjamas. One day, friendless and bored, Bruno decides to follow the fence to find out where it goes and meets Shmuel, a boy whose head is shorn, who wears striped pyjamas and who has also been uprooted from his home and family. But that’s where their similarities end. Nevertheless they become firm friends, drawn together by their shared feelings of hopelessness and isolation.
To say any more about the plot would ruin what, in my opinion, is a stunning ending. I won’t say I couldn’t see it coming, but it still stunned me when it hit. And it does hit. It really is hard to say anything else without spoiling things for those who haven’t read it yet.
For me, this book is about how children see the world, how what seems earth-shatteringly important to adults, has no meaning to the young and vice versa. It reads like a fable, and I think it has a lesson to teach us all about the dangers of thinking of humankind in terms of ‘them and us’. Whenever we come across a fence, we should tear it down.
5/5 – It was amazing!
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