First thing that came to my mind when I read the synopsis for John Boyne’s ‘The Boy at the Top of the Mountain’ was: Oh no. I’m not ready for this. Not yet. The reason for my apprehension was the fact that every book by him I’ve read so far has left me emotionally shattered and it takes me quite sometime to recover from the reading experience. Also fact that this book is a children’s book set during WWII and as such compared to ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ only increased my doubts. I had no doubts about the story itself of course. I feared for my emotional state after reading it.
But of course I read it. How could I not? Needless to say I enjoyed it. But maybe it isn’t the right word to use in this case.
How to describe the plot without being to explicit? This is one thing I’ve learned over the years of reading JB’s books: it is best to go into his stories without knowing to much about the story line. The less you know the bigger impact it will have on you.
But as it is a review (I hope) I owe you at least a short summary. As I’d mentioned earlier The Boy at the top of the Mountain is a children’s book set during WWII telling the story of a young boy named Pierrot. When he becomes an orphan, he must start a new life with his aunt Beatrix far away from his beloved France. The thing is that the owner of his new home, and his aunt’s employee, is Adolf Hitler.
If you’re familiar with John Boyne’s books this surely gives you an overall idea of what this particular story is about. Or rather how this book is crafted. What I mean by this, is his uncanny ability to paint very vivid images without describing anything directly. Simplicity is the key. The most powerful scenes are the ones that are based on skilful allusions and understatements. With only a couple of words he’s able to give the reader clear images – simple yet thought provoking and blunt. They will slowly word by word creep into your mind to stay there for a very long time.
The Boy at the top of the Mountain is no exception.
Pierrot’s story is one of the power of the power. Of the false notion of the impunity it can give. How it can corrupt and destroy everyone in its wake.
If you haven’t yet read anything by John Boyne, first of all: WHY? Second of all: Read this one but be prepared. It’s not an easy read, not a forgettable one. Now go read it. You’ve been warned.