Friday, 3 June 2011

BOOK REVIEW: 'The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas' by John Boyne

As a writer I hate having to say anything negative about another's work, but huge plot flaws do not go by unnoticed, as evinced by other reviews alongside this review of mine, published on Goodreads. Identifying and removing plot flaws is important for novelists, so I have published this review to demonstrate how they can misfire. In particular, the reliance on a misunderstanding of language that would not have actually worked in the original language is something no novelist should fall for. Nor is a point-of-view that is at odds with the treatment. Anyway, here we go with the review...

 Because of the success of the film, I decided to read this book. I was disappointed because I think it might have worked better with a different approach. As a writer, I found the choice of using third-person viewpoint and yet still writing what must surely be a young-adult or adult book in baby language was a poor choice. This topic is not for Enid Blyton readers. This level was emphasised by repetitive phrasing while inside the head of this child, Bruno, and such would only really work if this book had been written in first-person: which would have worked much better. To suggest it is a children's book amazes me, despite the baby language; you really don't want to 'charm' little children with tales of Nazi prison camps. In any case, only an adult can interpret what goes on, especially at the end of this book, so that blows a hole in that interpretation.

I have to agree with criticisms that to believe the 9 year-old son of the Commandant of a prison camp such as Auschwitz has not heard of Hitler and his aims is asking a bit too much (especially since he had been taught the Nazi salute). Even in those days, no child of that age could be as naive as this one. That he mishears 'Der F├╝hrer' as 'The Fury' and 'Auschwitz' as 'Out-With' becomes increasingly annoying with multiple repetitions, especially since such unlikely confusion could only occur with the English versions of these words and not the German: huge plot flaws. It is annoying that things like this, which prevent any suspension of disbelief and, rather, creat a feeling of total disbelief. And that this little boy is able to meet a 9 year-old inmate of the prison camp to chat through an unpatrolled section of the fence, for a year, and even pull up the wire to go into the camp in the closing scenes, beggars belief. I am also uncomfortable with the 'cosy fable' aspect of this dreadful scenario. I don't want to spoil the plot, but I also feel Bruno's father should have come out of this with a much more positive sense of self-realization as the result of learning what happened. Such an antagonist should reep his just deserts!

I cannot see a target audience to whom this book might actually speak. I have not seen the film, which possibly filters out some of the many plot flaws. As I said, it could be done much better. A pity that didn't happen.