Sunday, June 19, 2016

Book Review: The Boy at the Top of the Mountain

After enjoying The Boy in the Striped Pajamas immensely, I was thrilled to see another similar title by the same author, John Boyne. The barbed wire on the cover, along with the mountains in the background, hinted that the book would again be about World War II. Although, I enjoyed the book, it wasn't quite as good as the other. It didn't provide the same thrilling unexpected ending the previous book is known for. Still, it was an interesting read and I couldn't say I was bored at any point. I began reading it, initially, with my sons, but they lost interest after the first chapter.

The Boy at the Top of the Mountain tells the story of a young boy, Pierrot, whose father is German and whose mother is French. When both parents die, Pierrot is shipped off to stay with his aunt Beatrix, who happens to be a housekeeper in a very extraordinary house on a mountain in Austria. Pierrot is told the master of the house visits occasionally and will probably not want a small child around. Still, Pierrot slowly develops a relationship with his powerful master and must decide whose side he is on in this ever-intensifying war.

I liked the main character, but felt quite sad reading his story. If Hitler had indeed allowed a youngster into his intimate circle, I feel quite certain that child would have responded in the way Boyne imagines. There was nothing unexpected in the outcome of the story. I'm not sure Pierrot's remorse at the end felt genuine enough. I would have liked to have seen more growth occurring as the story progressed, more internal struggle with the very things he was participating in. That's not to say Boyne didn't present internal struggle. He did, but somehow it still felt empty at the end when Pierrot looks back on his life with regret. Perhaps the character growth at the end felt too abrupt. For whatever reason, I wasn't as floored by this ending and didn't come away with intense emotional resonance. Worth a read, but it definitely pales in comparison to The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

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