The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Book Summary - The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Book explained in key points
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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas summary

John Boyne

Heartbreaking Truths Unfold in a Tale of Friendship and Innocence

17 mins

Brief summary

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne is a poignant and heart-wrenching story about a young boy named Bruno who befriends a boy on the other side of a concentration camp fence during World War II, unaware of the true nature of the camp.

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    The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
    Summary of 3 key ideas

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    Key idea 1 of 3

    Bruno and his family move to Auschwitz

    At the beginning of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, nine-year-old Bruno is living in Berlin with his family – his parents and older sister, Gretel.

    One day, Bruno is given some upsetting news: because of his father’s recent promotion, the family is leaving Berlin. They’re moving to a place called “Out-With.”

    When Bruno arrives at his new home, he’s confused by what he sees. Looking through the window, he catches sight of people on the other side of the fence, who all wear the same clothes. To Bruno, it looks like they’re wearing striped pajamas.

    When he asks his father about the mysterious people on the other side, his father replies that “they’re not people.” He tells Bruno to forget about them, and to focus on settling into his new home.

    But Bruno is sad and lonely. He misses Berlin, his friends, and his grandparents. He wishes he were back home, instead of this strange house in the country, which is next to a tall fence topped with barbed wire. If only he had someone he could talk to.…


    Throughout the story, we see the world through Bruno’s eyes. Everything is filtered through his naive, innocent perspective.

    This allows the author, John Boyne, to make use of dramatic irony. We understand things that Bruno doesn’t, such as the true nature of his father’s job – Commandant at a concentration camp. And we know that those people in the “striped pajamas” are actually prisoners.

    As a result, there’s a sense of sadness and tragic inevitability casting a shadow over the story. We can’t help but worry about Bruno, with his childish innocence, and his optimistic view of the world.

    At times, Bruno’s ignorance may seem a little implausible. He thinks that “Heil Hitler” is simply  another way of saying “goodbye for now.” And he repeatedly refers to Auschwitz as “Out-With,” even after seeing it written down. 

    So you may be thinking that, as the son of a high-ranking Nazi officer, nearing adolescence and living right next door to a concentration camp … shouldn’t Bruno be a bit more aware?

    Well, perhaps. But here’s another way of looking at it. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is not just a historical novel, but also a story aimed, at least in part, at younger readers. And it’s presented, quite literally, as a fable. Inside the first pages of the book, it says, “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas – a fable by John Boyne.”

    Keeping this in mind can help us to appreciate Boyne’s choices as an author. His intention is not to write a complex, completely realistic novel about the Holocaust. Instead, he’s telling us a fable – a simple, accessible story that people of all ages can understand – even a nine-year-old like Bruno. So, while Bruno’s naivety may seem excessive at times, he’s still a believable character. And he’s certainly relatable.

    We can all remember what it’s like to be a child, when your friends and family are your whole world. And we know what it’s like to be homesick. So we can sympathize with Bruno’s struggles as he finds himself in a strange new house, far away from everything he knows.

    True, he has his family. But he’s not close to his sister, and he has a rather formal relationship with his father. Even his mother is a slightly distant figure, perhaps because she’s also struggling to adjust to their new life.

    What Bruno needs now, more than anything, is a friend. Luckily, he’s about to find one.

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    What is The Boy in the Striped Pajamas about?

    The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2006) is a best-selling historical novel. It’s the tale of the secret friendship between two nine-year-old boys, Bruno and Shmuel, who both live at Auschwitz, only on opposite sides of the fence.

    The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Review

    The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2006) by John Boyne is a haunting and thought-provoking novel set during World War II. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • The book presents a unique perspective on the Holocaust, exploring the innocence and friendship between two boys from different sides of the fence.
    • With its heart-wrenching storyline and beautiful prose, it captures the reader's emotions and leaves a lasting impact.
    • While dealing with heavy subject matter, the book manages to maintain a sense of hope and remind us of the power of humanity and compassion.

    Who should read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?

    • Young people
    • Fans of historical fiction
    • Anyone who enjoys moving stories about friendship

    About the Author

    John Boyne is the award-winning author of several popular novels for adults and children. All the Broken Places is a sequel to The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

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    The Boy in the Striped Pajamas FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?

    The main message of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a powerful exploration of friendship and the consequences of prejudice.

    How long does it take to read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?

    The reading time for The Boy in the Striped Pajamas varies, but it typically takes a few hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Boy in the Striped Pajamas a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a haunting and thought-provoking read. It offers a unique perspective on the Holocaust and the human capacity for empathy.

    Who is the author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?

    The author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is John Boyne.

    What to read after The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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