The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas – John Boyne

Nine-year-old Bruno returns home one day to find his belongings being packed up, by one of his family servants. Bruno questions his mother, who reveals that the family will be moving from Berlin, as his father has received a promotion. Leaving his three best friends for life, grandparents and five-storey home behind, Bruno’s family move to their new house in Out-with.

When exploring his new forbidding house Bruno spots a tall fence, out of his bedroom window, with barbed wire wrapped around the top, running much further than he could see. As an inquisitive explorer, Bruno is eager to find out more about what is on the other side. Intrigued by the peculiar people behind the fence, who all wear the same striped pyjamas.

His father, a strict military commandant, dismisses Bruno’s questions about the fence and asserts that the fence is Out Of Bounds At All Times And No Exceptions, even though he spends a great deal of time with the other soldiers (who are often inside the house) on the other side of the fence. In particular, Bruno has a rooted dislike for one menacing soldier, who names Bruno ‘little man’, and is especially unkind to Pavel, the family’s cook. Much to Bruno’s puzzlement, the soldiers surround his father laughing at his jokes and hanging on to every word he says.

The novel is centred around Bruno’s innocence and naivety. It is only when Bruno comes across Shmuel, The Dot That Became a Speck That Became a Blob That Became a Figure That Became a Boy, sitting cross-legged on the other side of the fence in his striped pyjamas, that he could ultimately spend his afternoons discussing what life was like on the adjoining side of the fence.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas offers a distinctive perspective on Nazi Germany. The horrors of the holocaust are misinterpreted and conveyed through the voice of a sheltered child, who is unwittingly subsumed at the heart of the Nazis’ ultimate solution. It is a short and extraordinary story that brings history to light.

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The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson

Jonas Jonasson’s The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared is absurdly offbeat and unpredictable – in a good way. Between laughs, I spent my time reading the nimble plot of this novel filled with curiosity, attempting to second guess the author. What’s more this book is a bucket list in motion.

‘Well, now you can see how sensible it is not to start your day by guessing what might happen,’ said Allan. ‘After all, how long would I have had to go on guessing before I guessed this?’

Centred on the escapades of the centenarian and nursing home escapee Allan Karlsson, the interspersed chapters of this tale weave between his earlier adventures and current goings-on.  Allan is very much a glass-half-full (of vodka) character, his laissez-faire attitude shapes the nature of the story and it’s light hearted and ironic tone. The free-wheeling narrative illustrates the crossed paths of Allan and many influential historical figures of the 20th century, including: American presidents, Russian tyrants and Chinese leaders. Blissfully blind to all things politics related, Allan haphazardly (and inadvertently) builds and obliterates international relations.

Dotted throughout the narrative are the endearing and quirky individuals that Allan encounters along his way. Notably, the clueless Herbert Einstein and his empty suicidal tendencies characterise the black humour of the novel. Not forgetting the growing group of friends (and an elephant) that Allan amasses by the end of his journey, which by definition is unconventional. This book is a nutty and interesting read. With the concept of ageing at its core, the novel defies social boundaries of age in its topsy-turvy world.