“The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas” by John Boyne

This is one book that tugs at your heart-strings and leaves you feeling haunted for some time. It explains the pain and trauma of the Holocaust in a simple, in-direct yet effective manner. It has been categorized under “Novel for Younger Readers” on the author’s website.  The book has been written from a child’s point of view and hence is easy for young readers  (I would say 10 years+ ) to read. Although it is intriguing and well written for adults to read too.

The Boy in Striped PyjamasThe book is about a 9-year-old boy Bruno who lives with his family in Berlin. His father is an important officer in the German army under Hitler’s command(Fury as Bruno calls him in the book). He is transferred to Out-with (as Bruno refers to the place in the book, but which refers to the Auschwitz concentration camp). The book tells us how life changes for Bruno, his sister and his mother after the move, what they see and what they are told about the camp. He leaves behind his friends in Berlin and feels very lonely in Out-with till he meets a friend from the other side of the barbed wire – Shmuel who wears striped pyjamas like all the other people on that side of the fence. Shmuel’s world is very different from Bruno’s. And in child-like curiosity Bruno wants to find out more about his new friend’s world. What he learns is beyond his innocent mind’s comprehension. And soon he becomes a part of that world unknowingly.

The book is a page turner and you won’t feel like putting it down. The characters are beautifully portrayed – the hesitant house help, the arrogant army officer, the submissive servants, the naive friend and Bruno – innocent, curious and unlucky. The plot and style of writing are captivating. A heart-wrenching narrative of one of the worst tragedies of mankind! The book has also been made into a motion picture – both the book and movie have won a lot of critical acclaim.

The author John Boyne is an Irish novelist and the story is set in Berlin so I will file this review under Europe in my 2011 Global Reading Challenge.  You can order the book via Flipkart.

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“Room” by Emma Donoghue

As part of the Global Reading Challenge, the first book that I would like to add to the list-of-books-read is “Room” by Emma Donoghue.

After a long time Room was a book that I didn’t feel like putting down at all. From the teaser on the back cover to the actual story it was intriguing and captivating.

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It is about a little boy named Jack who stays with his mother in an eleven feet by eleven feet room. Jack has been born and brought up inside that room. It is where he and his mother play, eat, sleep and watch day and night through the skylight. The room is home for Jack, but for his mother it is prison. The book explains the how and why and much more than that.

The book is told in Jack’s voice and explains routine and mundane events from a 5 year old’s perspective. It deals with Jack’s innocent yet fragile world. It shows the love and strong bond between a mother and a son. How Jack and his mother spend day after day in the room and yet keep their spirits alive and stay positive. Jack believes that this is reality and everything that he sees on TV is pretend. He lives his life believing this till the time his mother tells him that there exists a life outside the Room. I wouldn’t want to spoil the suspense and let the readers know what happens after that. You should read the book on your own to find out!

The author has used a simple yet effective writing style. The book is not very dark or depressing though it does make you feel very involved, empathetic and connected to the characters. It keeps that silver lining around the cloud intact. I felt happy and blessed after reading the book and relieved too.  As Audrey Niffenegger (author of “The Time Traveler’s Wife) rightly says on the front cover “Room is a book to read in one sitting.” Once I started reading the book I couldn’t stop turning the pages.

Emma Donoghue is an Irish writer from Dublin, Ireland. So I am going to file this one under Europe as part of my Global Reading Challenge. You can get this book via Flipkart.