solace of the road

I breezed down the line of cars, so cool you’d never know I was looking for a way to board the boat.

This story shows that you don’t need ten thousand words and great gestures to tell an emotional story. The smallness, the futility of it all makes Holly’s story in solace of the road possibly linger longer than a big show would have.

Holly is in a house for unwanted children. She’s been out for a few times, but there never was a click with the adoptive family. There are few adults she trusts, she misses her mother and the past they share and is stuck in a rut. Things happen and she decides to take her life in her own hands. With a blond wig on she isn’t small, deserted Holly any more, she’s cool, crazy Solace. Who’s going to travel from England back to Ireland, back to her mother.

Siobhan Dowd shows with small details what’s life like if you feel like you’re the only one in the world who cares about you, how someone can rewrite their own history and how devastating it can be to discover something outside that story. And all this without any pity, without any Life Lessons in the spotlight. It just happens. Holly has to come through. And you’re left behind, wondering if she will.

solace of the road, Siobhan Dowd, David Fickling Books 2009

The Boy In The Striped Pajamas

One afternoon, when Bruno came home from school, he was surprised to find Maria, the family’s maid – who always kept her head bowed and never looked up from the carpet – standing in his bedroom, pulling all his belongings out of the wardrobe and packing them in four large crates, even the things he’d hidden at the back that belonged to him and were nobody else’s business.

What a bloated, sentimental story. I had heard of the book, side-stepped the film to not be spoiled on the plot (even though that wasn’t so hard to figure out) and was ready to finally read it. It’s not so much that I’m full stop against any blown up emotions to make the reader have a good cry, I like a good cry. It’s just that the blown up emotions and underlined “hints” about how bad all of this was, were there all the time. Which -to me- reeked a bit of mistrust in your reader. We get it, mister Boyne. Really. 

Bruno is a spoiled young boy. His family moves to Auschwitz and after weeks of being bored, he sees someone on the other side of the fence. Bruno doesn’t understand why the fence is there, why the boy is so skinny and why everyone wears striped pajamas, but they strike up something similar to a relationship. Until Things Go Wrong, of course.

Even though Bruno is only nine years old, his naivety irked me. There wasn’t a moment I felt sympathy for him.  His impossibility to not remember the name Auschwitz correctly (Out With) seems like a cheap ploy to keep the readers longer in the dark. Pretty sure that most people will recognize the ‘people in German camps’ situation here. Bruno isn’t the only annoying character, most of the others don’t even get the freedom of being more than two-dimensional. 

I was relieved that I could close this book, because it was so clunky and trying hard to tear-jerk. Some times it’s better to keep waiting for a book, that much is clear.

The Boy In The Striped Pajamas, John Boyne, David Fickling Books 2006