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