Random House Children's Books | October 23, 2007 | Trade Paperback
When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move from their home to a new house far, far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence running alongside stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people he can see in the distance.
But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different to his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.
Bruno is nine-years-old when he arrives home from school one day to find the maid, Maria packing up the belongings in his room. He becomes very upset and demands to know what is going on when his mother comes into the room and asks him to meet her downstairs in the dining room. Bruno is so anxious that he speeds past his mother and his waiting for her downstairs before she even has a chance to step off the first stair. She tells Bruno that his father has received an important promotion and they must leave Berlin and move to another city and live in another house. Bruno, of course, is quite upset as he doesn’t want to leave his beloved home nor his three best friends. His mother assures him that things will be alright and that the whole family including: Bruno; his twelve-year-old sister, Gretel; their father; the maid, Maria; the butler, Lars; and Cook will all be moving together.
When they arrive at the new house Bruno is very disappointed as it sat almost in the middle of nowhere with no other homes nearby nor markets or stores. All Bruno can see from the window of his new bedroom is a fence with barbed wire on top, some huts in the distance, and older men, younger men, and boys all wearing the same grey striped pajamas and grey striped cap with soldiers watching them. He doesn’t even know what his father’s job is.
What is this place and what could possibly be his father’s job working with all these dirty, filthy people all dressed the same? He wants to be an explorer so decides to go for a walk. He follows the fence along for quite a distance until he comes to a piece of fencing where he sees a small boy. The boy approaches the fence and he and Bruno and make introductions and begin talking. The boy’s name is Shmuel, he is the same age as Bruno and even shares the same birthday. During an entire year, naïve Bruno brings his new friend bread, cheese and cake most days as the boy doesn’t have enough to eat.
One day Bruno is told by his father that his mother, Gretel and Bruno will be returning to Berlin while he stays and continues working at the same job. He tells Bruno that it is no place to raise children and he’d be much happier back in Berlin. Bruno is devastated, he doesn’t want to go back to Berlin now because he doesn’t want to leave Shmuel but they plan to have a last day together like no other bringing the story to a crashing end! I was totally taken aback at the ending and didn’t expect it at all.
John Boyne has written a book about nine-year-olds that isn’t for nine-year-olds as it says on the back cover of the novel. Don’t miss this one people, it’ll surprise you and break your heart so have some kleenex standing by. Beautifully and hauntingly written.