Posts Tagged ‘john boyne’

 When Pierrot becomes an orphan, he must leave his home in Paris for a new life with his Aunt Beatrix, a servant in a wealthy household at the top of the German mountains. But this is no ordinary time, for it is 1935 and the Second World War is fast approaching; and this is no ordinary house, for this is the Berghof, the home of Adolf Hitler.

Quickly, Pierrot is taken under Hitler’s wing, and is thrown into an increasingly dangerous new world: a world of terror, secrets and betrayal, from which he may never be able to escape.

The Boy at the Top of the Mountain

John Boyne

Doubleday

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

Pierrot lives with his French mother in Paris after his German father died.  He has a dog, D’Artagnen, and a best friend, Anshel, and life is good.    In 1936 his mother dies and the seven year old is sent to an orphanage in the French countryside as he can’t stay with Anshel.  He eventually is told that his paternal aunt has heard about his mothers death and wants him to live with her.

Riding a train to Austria and his aunt, he is collected by a brusque stranger and delivered to a grand house nestled in the hills, miles from town. After a brisk bath given by a maid, he meets his aunt and finds out she is the housekeeper for an important man.  Pierrot is renamed Pieter by his aunt – to sound more German – and told not to mention he is French and never ever to mention his best friend or his name.  Then the home’s owner arrives and Pieter greets him with how he was coached by his aunt, a Nazi salute.  The next nine years of his life at the Berghof is then told.

After the war Pieter learns the full extent of the war he has been complicit in and can no longer pretend Hitler and the Nazi’s weren’t monsters.  Years later he returns to Paris to find out Anshel’s fate.

I was sympathetic towards Pierrot at first – a little boy who has lost everything and thrust into a new life where he has to lie about himself – but that changed to dislike as he falls under the influence of Hitler and, in betraying his aunt, becomes Pieter.  He’s blind to what’s happening around him and innocently passes on conversations with his school friends that cause them and their families to disappear.

There are plenty of little hints about the horrors to come but I can see them because of hindsight. If I was living back then I doubt I would  have realised what was going on – being in my own happy little world most of the time – I would only notice when it affected me.  Maybe this explains a little about the acceptance of the German and European people to the Third Reich’s rise to power.

Written by the author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, this is a well written story that is well-plotted and powerful.  I highly recommend this thought-provoking story though it might be too much for younger readers.

this house is haunted

I get the distinct impression that in some kind of reaction to much of the anachronism found in modern Victorian fantasy, Boyne has decided to give us a proper Dickensian ghost story. The problem with that is that it has been done before, many times over. I am told that “This House is Haunted” shares many plot elements with Henry James’ classic 1898 ghost story “The Turn of the Screw” and given the number of adaptations of said story, it’s no wonder that “This House is Haunted” seemed strangely familiar and all too predictable. That said, I must admit that it is very well written, capturing the Victorian turn of phrase much better than many works set in the period.

The central character’s behaviour does seem a little odd… why doesn’t she simply gather up the children and the other inhabitants of Gaudlin Manor and leave? The manor’s state of disrepair gives her a plausible reason. Get the place condemned and get out! And why does it take her so long to figure out the identity of the second ghost? I found the novel a tad boring, and the ending unsatisfying, which is a pity because it started so well and had so much potential.

Doubleday

Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

stay where you are and then leaveAlfie turned 5 on 28th July 1914 – the day the Great War started.  The next day his dad was one of the first to enlist in the army and leaves for the front.  The government turns up and takes Alfie’s best friend, Katrina Janacek, and her father away to an internment camp because they are Czech.  Mr Janacek leaves behind a shoe shining box for polishing shoes and Alfie sets up a stand at King’s Cross Station and help his mum with bills.

Letters from his dad have stopped and Alfie’s sure he’s dead, not on a secret mission like his mum told him.  Then one day at King’s Cross, Alfie is shining the shoe of a military doctor who drops a file.  While scrambling round picking up papers, Alfie sees it – his Dad’s name on a list.  But why does the doctor have it?  Alfie has to find out more…….

I enjoyed this book despite it concerning WW1, which automatically make it sad.  Alfie was a loveable character, determined to do the right thing and fiercely loyal to his parents.  The plot was good, very descriptive with a few surprises.  Te guest appearance of Lloyd George, the British PM at the time, was cool and gave us a glimpse of his personality.  By the author of The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, this is another compelling read.

Doubleday

Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan