27th July '16
John Boyne is a fantastic author. From The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas to The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket his writing is so emotive and so simple. The Boy at the Top of the Mountain is another credit to the great man!
When I say this is a gorgeous story I mean it is beautifully written. The story itself takes you by the hand, gently nurturing you, before slamming you to the floor with the realisation of what is occurring. The insidious nature of indoctrination from a powerful orator and a boy willing to believe. But I've jumped ahead, we start in Paris, a small boy, his mother and his father dealing with the memories of the First World War. The boy, Pierrot, has a friend, Anshel Bronstein who he is close to and to whom he leaves his dog when circumstances take him away from Paris...those with a small knowledge of history in the late 1930s will understand that things are not going smoothly in Europe and Germany is on the rise under the leadership of Adolf Hitler; Anshel is finding that to be Jewish is a difficult and dangerous identity and tries to explain to Pierrot how unpleasant circumstances are becoming for him.
Staying first at an orphanage then travelling to stay with his aunt, Pierrot comes across several unpleasant people, each in a uniform, each wielding power, which makes an impression, before finally arriving at the house where he is to stay until the end of the war.
I've been a little scant on the details, sorry for that, but this story has its fair share of horror - given the nature of the subject, WW2, hardly surprising but the way in which you, the reader, are led to it is so well done. How Pierrot grows up and is moulded by his surroundings despite his Aunt's guidance, her initial belief that he would be safer with her than anywhere else, and the ultimate betrayal. Shocking yes but John Boyne delivers it with absolute perfection for maximum effect, I stared at the page, watching it happen, knowing it was going to happen, powerless to stop it, along for the ride. Brilliant.