Rating: 4 stars.
Alfie is nine years old and the war is coming to an end (or at least, the audience knows this even if the characters don’t yet). Alfie’s mother is struggling to make ends meet with his father having gone off to war. Alfie lives under the impression that his father is on a secret mission, and that is why his letters have stopped, but Alfie soon learns that things are a lot more complicated than that.
It was a beautiful book. Alfie feels so real, his desires are so simple for such a complicated world that he’s been thrown into. Boyne does a phenomenal job showing us this world through his eyes.
It deals with many serious issues of the time including the rampant xenophobia, PTSD (shell shock), and conscious objectors. Each of these ideas can be examined more closely at a variety of different age levels for those looking for an educational resource. There are some exceptionally good quotes in the book.
It’s a little shameful to admit that I’ve not yet read Boy in the Stripped Pajamas, or any other John Boyne novels. It does remain on my radar, but I’ve always wanted to be emotionally prepared for a holocaust novel. This book has certainly motivated me to put it higher on my priority list.
My difficulty with this book is that I found it really slow to start. Its sold as a “quick read” but it was hard to get into, and it took me several sit downs before I could plow my way through it. Once the real action of the story began, I found it much easier to continue.
Recommendations: The main character of the story is 9 years old, and I would certainly say that it is appropriate for anything beyond that. Complicated ideas are fairly well explained in the book, but its not something I’d read to children any younger. The powerful themes and the concepts it explores makes it a dynamite selection to discuss in class settings.
Themes: PTSD, family, pacifism, treatment of foreigners,