With his latest treacly tome All the Broken Places – complete with title so maudlin it preempts all mockery – Boyne has gifted us with a Holocaust novel so self-indulgent, so grossly stereotyped, so shameless and insipid that one is almost astonished that he has dared ... As with the preceding novel, All the Broken Places has a heavy-handed, pedagogical plot ... The dialogue is leaden and expository ... This is not literature ... It is a consummate failure.
Its major themes are guilt, complicity and the apparently inescapable cycles of grief arising from world-shaking events. It is gripping, well honed and very much aimed at adults .... Gretel’s smart, engaging and uncompromising voice draws the reader in deftly ... The novel is consummately constructed, humming with tension until past and present collide ... All the Broken Places is a defence of literature’s need to shine a light on the darkest aspects of human nature; and it does so with a novelist’s skill, precision and power.
Has an ambitious historical sweep spanning eight decades ... Despite the amount of ground it covers, it remains fast-paced, and Boyne — a talented storyteller — handles his historical material skilfully ... Gretel is an intriguing character, if not always a likeable one — presumably this is intentional — and is more convincingly drawn in old age than as a teenager or young woman ... It explores guilt and complicity, asks whether knowledge is a form of guilt, and examines a life of evasion and deception.
Many individuals and organisations, including, for example, the Holocaust Survivors’ Friendship Association, have pointed out [The Boy in the Striped Pajamas'] problems ... Boyne has decided to rectify none of these issues in his ill-advised sequel ... It becomes clear that Boyne did not intend to worry about such minor details as narrative plausibility ... This is an adult book, but it has clunky narrative links that would be out of place even in a children’s story. There are difficult moral questions here, but they are obscured, unfortunately, by the ridiculousness of the plot.
[The Boy in the Striped Pajamas] is a skilful novel on its own very narrow terms, if you know nothing about the Holocaust, and if you wish to know nothing, and that is the danger of All the Broken Places too. The emphasis: what is not said, and who does not say it. Making art about the Holocaust is morally fraught, as the artist has an obligation both to memorialise and to teach. That is what the subject demands, if you want to be seemly. If you want to be unseemly, please yourself ... The sequel has Boyne’s skill and immorality: but this time, less of the first, and more of the second ... I don’t doubt there is a valuable novel to be written about Nazi children, but Boyne does not choose this path. He lingers for a while, but then transforms his novel, instead, into what feels like a police procedural: a thriller ... The parallel narratives – one promising, one insulting – combine into a pulpy denouement that shames the author and the reader both.
The story of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, in which Bruno befriends Shmuel, a boy imprisoned at Auschwitz, is incorporated in All the Broken Places in flashback. The historical inaccuracies, as such, persist ... The problem with All the Broken Places is less whether Gretel’s story is worth telling than how it’s told.
f you haven’t read it — and you shouldn’t — it tells the story of Bruno, the son of a nameless Auschwitz commandant, who befriends Shmuel, a Jewish boy interned in the camp ... Historians might cry ... [Boyne] does not appear to understand why Jews do not thank him for writing a series of books about the Holocaust that are arguably not about Jews at all, but about Nazis and their potential for redemption.
Fast-moving ... Boyne moves nimbly through Gretel’s history and numerous subplots in which some coincidences strain credulity. Gretel is a compelling character, sardonic and damaged, and the novel raises intriguing questions about the psychological effects of guilt and shame. While it stands sturdily enough on its own, it will probably appeal particularly to fans of Boyne’s earlier bestseller.
Boyne handles the alternating narratives well and uses them to create suspense, but they contribute to some avoidable repetitiousness in the writing and an occasional sense of aimlessness in the plot, unlike the taut, effective economy of Striped Pajamas. The ending may spark fierce debate, for what seems to be an act of redemption also smacks of self-justification that, in this fraught context, evokes grim historical antecedents ... A complex, thoughtful character study that avoids easy answers.
A seemingly redundant adult sequel to The Boy in the Striped Pajamas ... Boyne creates vivid characters, but a certain thematic obviousness dilutes the dramatic effect. Fans of the first book may enjoy revisiting the material as adults, but this doesn’t quite land on its own.