“Audio book performed by Michael Maloney
When 9-year-old Bruno arrives home from school one day he finds the family maid, Maria, going through his things. He is incensed until his mother explains that Maria is helping to pack because the family is moving from their large (5-story) Berlin home to a new city for his father’s job. The reader quickly becomes aware that Bruno’s father is a highly placed Nazi Commandant and has been assigned to oversee the concentration camp at Auschwitz. Bruno, however, is a child – and can be excused for being somewhat innocent and more concerned with the impact on himself (he’ll have to leave his “three best friends for life!”)
There is an interesting premise here – to tell the story of two boys separated by a fence, but united in their “boyness.” I also get that Boyne was trying to show that complacency was the great perpetrator of the Holocaust (and of many genocides since). However, the voice he chose for this story really irritated me.
Perhaps part of that was the fault of audio performer Michael Maloney, who gives Bruno a very young voice, with a nearly breathless delivery. He really sounded as if he were under age six. He was more than innocent – he was oblivious and immature to an extent that was just unbelievable to me … unable to understand why the children in the striped pajamas could have “playmates” while he could not, and unable to pronounce German words when he’s a native German speaker (“the Fury” vs der Fuhrer or “Off-With” vs Auschwitz).
The ending is a stunner. And Boyne somewhat redeems the work by giving us a sense that Bruno’s father finally understands the impact of what he has done.