I've never actually commented on a thread on Amazon before but this discussion has left me with a strong desire to add my two pennies worth:)
I'm a secondary school English teacher. As part of that role i feel it is important for me to read books aimed at children and teenagers so i that i can recommend books to students that they may like to try. I've just read what i wrote and that sounds very worthy! The fact is there's such great literature aimed at teens these days and i enjoy reading it.
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas struck me as a strange book - neither fish nor foul. I didn't feel that the voice of the child narrator was particularly convincing and the whole novel felt rather episodic to me. I obviously don't know what the author was hoping to achieve when writing this book. However, if he was attempting to show the true horror of the war through contrast with Bruno's innocent lack of understanding of the events around him, then he did so with limited success. I don't believe that he was deliberately attempting to whitewash events but i do feel that his writing skills were not up to the task he set himself. I think you get more out of this book and Bruno's limited narrative voice if you know your history.
I also have to say that as an English teacher i would only deliver this text to a class in conjunction with a lot of historical data exploring the events that Bruno is unaware of. It would be a great unit of work looking at the effects of a limited narrative voice and why the author has chosen to do this. If i had free choice,however, i'd probably choose the rather stunning Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo or Then and Now by Morris Gleitzman. All three of these books are outstanding works.
I also have to say that i disagree with those comments above that say it is only a work of fiction and should be treated that way. The author deliberately selected this moment in history to base his fictional story on - it's not set on a housing estate in London! The context of the novel is therefore clearly very important to the story and integral to its meaning. Many commenters seem to feel that the author has deliberately overlooked or underplayed historic events. I have to say i think this is merely a result of choosing Bruno as the narrative voice and trying to write about his innocence which is slowly lost through the novel. I just don't feel it was written particularly skillfully.
Finally, while i'm an English teacher i also love History and nothing gets taught in my classroom without ensuring that students understand the historical context - that goes for everything from War poetry to Of Mice and Men!
Mr Walker, your continual comments about "the English and the Irish" are getting quite grating. Some people from both of the nations you so deride have commented negatively on this book for all of the same reasons that you have. Some have studied the history of world war two and German politics, some have visited the sites of concentration camps, some are related to the soldiers who liberated those self same camps, some are related to the victims of the holocaust and are well versed in the specific history. Whilst your opinions on this book are valid, your continual derision of two specific nations is starting to look like xenophobic trolling and as such, the relevant parts of your posts are in danger of being lost.
I have lived in England for many years, and I now live in Ireland. Two lovely countries with lovely people that have many outstanding qualities - which is exactly why I have chosen to live there. However, like everyone they are not faultless, nor do they rise above occasional criticism, and I know pretty well from long experience where their faults lie. Having also grown up and lived in a (former occupied) European country myself for 34 years, I feel I have the necessary basis to compare attitudes in a number of areas, and I find that the faults I mention in the above are highly relevant to this discussion (you are, of course, free to disagree). I'm sorry this specific case provided no scope for the praise and respect I predominantly feel for these people, only for a bit of criticism. However, if you read my review page you will see how highly I in many ways respect the culture of both these nations. Let me also make it absolutely clear that my criticism is, of course, a broad generalization and certainly does not include each and everyone belonging to said nations.
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to make this clear, something I should have done from the start.