‘Sitting around miserable all day won’t make you any happier…’
Timing has never been my strong point. In fact, it remains a mystery as to what my strong points are, if any. The first time I attempted The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas was during my brief time living in Canada. My friend and I were staying with a sympathetic family in the small city of Kenora. I was woken one morning by the friendly paw of Notorious C.A.T., my friends loving, but attention seeking, cat. Finding myself wide awake at 5am, but unable to leave the room I was in for fear of waking the rest of the house, I decided to seek solace in the bookcase and specifically The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas. I knew absolutely nothing of the story and naively believed it would just be the happy go lucky tale of a child larking about in his bed clothes. A few chapters laced with abject horror later and it was clear I had made a terrible decision.
I never really thought about the book again until recently when I needed to read it on a professional level for work. In my wisdom, I decided that the best time to read it, would be on a sangria fuelled trip to Barcelona for my mates 30th. I read it in 3 sittings, twice in my pants on a horrible sofa in our depressing apartment, both times riddled with alcohol poisoning and regret, before finishing the novel on the plane on the way home. When you have been pretty much awake for three days and you have started to sweat pure alcohol, don’t start reading The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas…
Mundane stories aside, John Boyne’s 2006 novel is a beautifully crafted and vital piece of work. I’m really pleased that it is one of the texts used in schools at the moment as it packs an emotional wallop and teaches invaluable lessons, whilst also never feeling contrived or preachy.
The simplicity of the prose mixed with the implicit horrific subtext makes for an emotionally charged and sometimes grating experience but art related to this subject should never feel easy or even enjoyable.
The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas is one of those books everyone should read before they die. Just not when on a sofa in Barcelona with only the sound of your friend being violently sick for company.