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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Boy at the Top of the Mountain

I might not be a great fan of books that are about the wars our world has seen, there's one author who can make me read it anyway. Remember the book The Boy in the Striped Pajamas? Yeah, well there's another book written by this author and it's a little while before and also during the time of the Boy in the Striped Pajamas takes place: The Boy at the Top of the Mountain by John Boyne.

Note: I also wrote a review on the first book I ever read by this author: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. It's also a very high recommendation of mine! If you're interested and curious about what it is and what'll happen in this book, I wrote a review on it HERE!

When both his parents die, Pierrot needs to go live with his aunt Beatrix at the top of a mountain somewhere in Germany. Ready for the new adventure, Pierrot gets invited into a home where everyone seems scared of its owner. Everyone gets all ready and preparing it for when he decides to take a rest at the top of the mountain. Before Pierrot knows it, he gets intertwined in the world of Adolf Hitler, filled with lies, betrayal and danger. Will he ever get out safely?

Honestly, I hate books about war. I don't know why but I'm just not really into reading them but when we talk about books by John Boyne, you just hand me that book right away and I'll finish it in a day or two. I only read one book by him before this one: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. And I remember when I got it in my hands during English class I absolutely dreaded reading it. I didn't want to read about war! But man, does this writer know how to capture you and make you read it anyway. And really? Make you fall in love with the story even though it's about a tough topic. He can capture these kind of things so well that you can't do anything else than go along with it and love reading the book that contains war and hurt.

And yes, I did have the same feeling with The Boy at the Top of the Mountain. Honestly, I was shocked and intrigued as well as so into this one. I couldn't stop reading! Before I get to the plot I really want to get into the characters. Starting with Pierrot, he's only 7 when we first read about him. He lives in Paris, his mom being French and his dad being German. This really was the first thing that really made me curious! I mean, the first world war is over, Germany didn't have many friends really and then there's Pierrot's parents: French and German, in love. Really. I was intrigued and very curious to what would happen next and how people react on it!

But much time for me to learn about how people act and react on this is available here in this book. His dad dies shortly before his mother. At the age of 7, lose both parents? You can imagine this really affects the kid and it did. What was the worst in this situation though was that he had to move to a orphan home because there was just Pierrot and no other family left.

The thing that really got me most was that he wasn't allowed to stay with his best friend Anshel. The mother couldn't provide for two boys, especially because Anshel has more needs (he's deaf). But Pierrot hears there's more to the story of why she doesn't want to keep him and it really breaks his heart more. The part in Paris and in the orphan house we really see how innocent Pierrot is. He's just a child, he doesn't like bullying or people calling his friend a name because he's a Jew. Pierrot is just a boy who wants to live the happily ever after without people getting hurt. 

When he discovers that his aunt will take him, he's excited. I was really keen on the fact that Pierrot goes with whatever is coming on his path from that moment on, something that really shows off in his character. Yet the moment he steps foot in that house, he feels the change. This character goes through such a big transformation, I couldn't believe it! John Boyne makes sure we'll end this book with the biggest contrast of all times. He goes living with a man that has his own believes and lurks him into this world. Result? We won't recognize Pierrot any longer.

Can I just say how much I was as well keen as thrilled on this part? The contrast is so well written and it really shocked me but also lurked me in as well! He's not longer the innocent boy and will get influenced in believing what this man believes. This also means Pierrot will do some things you'd never imagine him doing at all. The fact that the author made time to write a story about people being influenced so much and therefore change so much? Yeah, it's absolutely great because I believe that it went like that to some extent too back then and John Boyne writes this on such an innocent, lurking kind of way it's too good to even describe!

As for the other characters, I rather not get into it too much so you can really see for yourself. Pierrot is obviously the main character in this and I really found him the most important to discuss. However I can say that the other characters will show such a great diversity! You'll have people conspiring, people hating, people loving, whispering and all that. It's great to see that there's such a divided world and not only away from Pierrot but also up at the top of the Mountain! Each and every character will also influence the story at some point. Either with a few smart words or with actions they take. I think that's the thing about the characters, they're all little pieces of the puzzle that fit into the bigger picture and all work together to move the story completely. A big fan of the characters, that's what I call myself!

As for the plot, can I first give a little ramble about what I read? At a certain point Pierrot was at the train station and he bumped into someone, a soldier, who then stood onto his fingers as a punishment. There's a wife with two kids coming saying something like "Oh there you are Ralph" and the little girl asks something rude and is called "Gretel". When Pierrot goes onto the next train there's a boy, teenager really, and his name is Kotler... Does it sound familiar yet?

Hello characters from the Boy in the Striped Pajamas! I can't believe this actually happened while I was reading this. I'm a reader who likes to see characters walk into another character's book and here they were. The younger versions of the characters we all get to meet in another book by John Boyne. I was surprised, intrigued and very keen on this!

Okay back to the review now! What was really interesting in this book was that it was divided in a few parts that each had years on them. What I found so interesting about this really was the fact that you could historically get a picture of what might be happening at that point and really take in into account with what happens at the top of the mountain.

And I say at the top of the mountain because Pierrot, or Pieter as they all call him because Pierrot is too French, will never know anything else that happens outside of the mountain. Of course he descends a few times for school or to see a friend but other than that nothing. The plans that this man conspires he'll never see happen in real life or with his own eyes. He's practically closed off from the world, his world is just that top of the mountain. 

As I already said, the moment he steps foot in that house up there, there's an enormous change. There is no longer anything happy, relaxed or comfortable in the air like there was in Paris. There's danger lurking around and everyone speaking about a man without a name. Warning Pieter not to tell anything about his friend or his past or Paris even or use his real name because that man would not like it. 

Obviously this is already the part where the reader gets overly excited by all the thrill, suspicion and danger that's lurking around. That's what's also well written in this book, it always makes you feel the atmosphere that's hanging there. Whether it's cold or warm, sweet or angry, you're body will feel it and soak it all in.

But the plot isn't only about making you really feel what's going on but it'll also make you think a few times for yourself. This book, it's amazing, has so many twists of the truth and often makes you turn against your own thoughts. One moment you think this but then it seems like it's totally different. 

And that's what our main character is feeling too. This man will twist his words so well that it'll change Pierrot's believes, his thoughts, his life really. He becomes someone we will not recognize any longer and see him grow into something he's not over the years. Which is all because of those divided parts in the book that made this possible so as I said: great asset! 

The theme in these book is, as we know, war yet the book will only show you the war inside that house at the top of the mountain. There's nothing else we'll see but everything happening and changing over there which I appreciated as well. 

Other than that I think it's safe to say that brainwashing will be part of the book and somehow I found that extremely amazing to see and to see develop. Especially because it isn't brainwashing while harming the people's bodies, it's only the mind. I think one can really appreciate this brainwashing in the book because it only slowly changes the character's believes and then their personality but also gives a boost to the plot!

This personality change will put the characters in a much bigger game than being horrible to one another or not telling everything. The plot makes a very interesting turn there because people will die all because of lies, betrayal and secret information. I was so keen on the fact to see this sort of action take place, especially because the reaction of all characters will be so diverse. The once innocent boy is no longer! 

To conclude this part I just really like to say that the plot will not be boring, it'll make you guess and change your mind. It'll affect everyone at the mountain a lot and creates so much changes! The plot is filled with lies and betrayal, people harming one another, people being so much different than we thought, conspiracy and weird theories. It has so much in store that it can't be bad!

Lastly, I'd like to shine a little light on that ending of the book. I won't spill too much but really, it was fabulous and so not predictable. If all, John Boyne surprised me the most right there! Really, it's amazing... just go get the book alright! Read it! Devour it! Devote your life to this author... Really. What's so interesting with the ending is that it'll take a perspective and give a light onto the fact that there is no more innocence left with the characters or maybe there is? And also what they'll do after everything that's happened. But that said, your first question while reading this might be: who will be left and in what state will he or she be? I think you should find out and READ that BOOK!  

This book was absolutely stunning and greatly written. I'm normally not the person for war stories but John Boyne always knows how to make you love it anyway. The characters are so well written and diverse. The plot is so strong and full of power, betrayal and lies it makes you rethink everything you already knew. It's also the plot that made the main character change and not be recognizable again. Next to that it gives a nice short version of history build with fiction that ends in the most beautiful way possible after such a time. After The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, there was no other book I thought that could overrun it, but here is John Boyne again and he shows us there is an even better book! I absolutely recommend The Boy at the Top of the Mountain to everyone, even if you're not into war!

“Just don't ever tell yourself that you didn't know.... That would be the worst crime of all.” 

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