Author Talk


Yesterday morning I attended a talk with author John Boyne as part of the Auckland Writer’s Festival.

John Boyne

John Boyne is best known for his young adult World War II novel The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2006) and the companion novel The Boy at the Top of the Mountain (2015). The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas was my book club pick for March. You can read my review here.

The one hour talk ‘The Narrative of History: John Boyne’ was hosted by journalist Guy Somerset.

The focus of the talk was on his adult novel A History of Loneliness, which explores the issue of sexual abuse and cover up by the Catholic Church in Ireland.

He talked about how when you are from a small country, such as Ireland, people expect you to write about where you are from. An expectation that is not put upon writers of countries, such as England and the United States. He resisted writing about Ireland until he had ‘something to say’.

John read two excerpts from A History of Loneliness. Powerful stuff!

A History of Loneliness   TheBoyInTheStripedPyjamasCover

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is both his most popular and unpopular book. He is proud of the work and does not mind that it sometimes overshadows his other work. He is also fine with the criticism levelled at the book as literature should ‘create debate’.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year. A special collector’s edition will be released later in the year illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. So check that out.

The most powerful moment of the talk was during the audience Q&A portion when a young woman about to take her A Levels asked for advice on recovering from abuse. He told her that the fact she can stand up and talk about something so personal in front our a group shows that she is much stronger than she realises.

John will next be appearing at the Sydney Writers’ Festival in Australia. If you go let me know what you thought? If you attended the Auckland Writers Festival what did you think? Have you met one of your favourite authors before? Let me know in the comments.



John Boyne Official Website

John Boyne on Twitter

John Boyne on Instagram

Book Club Pick

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

Book Club Pick: March 2016


Book Details:

Title: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas: a fable

Author: John Boyne

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: Ireland

Publisher: David Fickling Books

First Published: 2006

Pages: 216

Publisher’s Description:

Lines may divide us, but hope will unite us . . .

Nine-year-old Bruno knows nothing of the Final Solution and the Holocaust. He is oblivious to the appalling cruelties being inflicted on the people of Europe by his country. All he know is that he has been moved from a comfortable home in Berlin to a house in a desolate area where there is nothing to do and no one to play with. Until he meets Shmuel, a boy who lives a strange parallel existence on the other side of the adjoining wire fence and who, like the other people there, wears a uniform of striped pyjamas.

Bruno’s friendship with Shmuel will take him from innocence to revelation. And in exploring what he is unwittingly a part of, he will inevitably become subsumed by the terrible process.


Nine-year-old Bruno is growing up in Berlin during World War II. After Bruno’s father is promoted to a Commandant, he and his family move to ‘Out-With’ on the orders of ‘The Fury’.

‘Out-With’ is Bruno’s misinterpretation of the Auschwitz concentration camp and ‘The Fury’ was his misinterpretation of the word Führer, which means leader or guide in German and was commonly associated with Adolf Hitler.

Young Bruno is quite naive about what is going on around him. For example, he presumes that ‘Heil Hitler’ is a another way of saying ‘Well, goodbye for now, have a pleasant afternoon.’

Bruno is not happy about leaving his friends and his comfortable home for a house in the middle of nowhere where there is nothing to do and no one to play with. From his bedroom window he can see a camp behind a wire fence.

One day Bruno explores the fence line and meets a Jewish boy named Shmuel, who shares the same birthday as him. Shmuel is dressed in striped pyjamas and a cap. All the people on Shmuel’s side wear pyjamas.

Bruno and Shmuel develop a friendship. An innocent Bruno does not understand what is going on Shmuel’s side of the fence and Shmuel cannot understand how the Commandant can have such a nice son.

There has been some criticism against the plausibility of the story, such as there were no nine year-old boys at Auschwitz. Some argue that the narrative trivialises the conditions of the death camp and the Holocaust.

A film adaptation directed by Mark Herman and starring Vera Farmiga, David Thewlis, Rupert Friend, David Hayman and Asa Butterfield was released in 2008.




John Boyne Official Website

John Boyne on Twitter

John Boyne on Instagram


Source: I borrowed a copy of this book from my public library.