27 January, 2006

munkey's-eye view


'But aren't books important?' asked Bruno.
'Books about things that matter in the world, of course,' ... 'But not story-books. Not books about things that never happened.'


Writing about Irish author John Boyne's short novel The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas is a difficult affair, because to say anything about the story, the setting or even the themes is to give too much away. Suffice to say, by Chapter Two you will understand what it's about, and by Chapter 4 the full profundity and poingnancy of this wonderful book are achingly clear.

The narrative follows a nine-year-old boy named Bruno, and is told almost entirely from the perspective of his own limited understanding. The core subject matter of the situation in which Bruno finds himself, has been tackled innumerable times in literature, theatre, cinema - in almost every form of expression known to man. It is a subject whose mark on human-kind is so important, it has almost been overdone - to the point of creating a widespread feeling of (unwarranted but understandable) ennui about the whole topic. But Boyne's story takes such a fresh, ingeniously simple approach that in just 20 very short chapters, he gives us a new way in; a new way to appreciate the immense importance of our own history.

Like Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time, this is one of those books you can devour in a single sitting. Not just because of its short length, but because (as with Curious Incident) the reader is propelled through familiar territory by a bold and brilliant new character voice. The clarity of perspective offered by watching events through wholly original eyes is addictive, and allows the reader to discover the subect matter anew. The deep questions and complex mysteries of the human world are forced into focus, as if for the first time, by the enlightening new viewpoint.

Through the uncomprehending eyes of Bruno, we see right to the core of injustice and cruelty - as well as the friendship and humanity that exist in the face of such circumstances - stripped completely bare. The effect is heartbreaking. As the compact narrative draws to a close, you can see the final events approaching, but they are so unconscionably tragic, you don't really let yourself believe they are coming. The effect is devastating but not depressing. This is a book that will continue returning to your mind long after you have finished reading.

(out of 5)



Blogger Byron said...

Why hello mister munkey sir...
I see you have been reading my blog. This makes me realise that I am indeed launching my thoughts into the scary wide world of the internet for all to see.
I believe I have seen you wandering around HRH (aka David)'s

I don't really have a point.
*waves, and then runs away*

January 30, 2006 3:51 pm  

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