John Boyne’s powerful and gripping sequel to 'The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas' is an emotive piece of writing about guilt and culpability - should young Gretel be answerable for the evil actions of her father? Boyne is a superb storyteller who tackles a multifaceted subject with humanity and sensitivity.
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ALL THE BROKEN PLACES
BY JOHN BOYNE
“There’s nothing more provoking than the guilty escaping justice”
John Boyne’s powerful and gripping sequel to 'The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas' is the story of Bruno’s sister Gretel. It is an emotive piece of writing about guilt and culpability - should a 12-year-old child be answerable for the evil actions of her father, a senior officer in the Reich and concentration camp commandant. Interwoven into the narrative is the haunting presence of Gretel’s deceased brother. Boyne is a superb storyteller who tackles a multifaceted subject with humanity and sensitivity.
We first meet Gretel as an active 93-year-old lady who has been living in Winterville Court, a luxurious apartment overlooking Hyde Park for many years. When a young couple, Alex Darcey-Witt, a successful filmmaker and his beautiful actress wife Madelyn together with their shy son Henry move into the flat, the quiet equilibrium of her present life is thrown into disarray. Gretel is witness to a series of disturbing events which if she chooses to be drawn into could bring unwelcome attention on herself and possibly unravel her past which she has kept hidden all her life. The narrative flashes back to Gretel’s escape to Paris with her mother in 1946, then later trying to start a new life in Australia in the early 1950’s before arriving in London in 1953, each time with a different identity, but always keeping her first name.
Boyne doesn’t make Gretel the most likeable person, she is steely, direct and extremely irritated by the arrival of her new neighbours. But this renders the story more persuasive as Boyne brilliantly draws the past and present together and we discover the contradictory and complex decisions Gretel has been left to cope with throughout her life and the close secrets she still harbours in her nineties. Whilst she has never taken responsibility for her past, can she now take responsibility for the present and prevent further evil and pain, without compromising herself and those around her? It is up to the reader to decide whether feeling guilty and having regrets is enough.
Den tip - Whilst 'The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas' was written for older children, this is an adult read.
Available in paperback.