The Boy At The Top Of The Mountain
By John Boyne
Published by Doubleday
ISBN 978 0 857 53452 1
John Boyne has had hit novels both on the adult and the YA bookshelf. His second world war story The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2006) is one of the most original and unforgettable works of fiction ever.
For his new YA novel, Boyne returns to the second world war to tell an exciting and disturbing tale of youthful innocence caught-up and quickly corrupted by circumstances and chance. Pierrot, the young French/German boy at the centre of The Boy At The Top Of The Mountain is pulled by events into situations he doesn’t fully understand but where he has to change to survive.
The story starts in the mid-1930s, and seven year old Pierrot lives in Paris with his French mother. Pierrot’s German father fought in the First World War, and the horrors he saw drove him to commit suicide three years ago just before his son’s fourth birthday.
But tragedy hasn’t finished with Pierrot yet. His mother develops tuberculosis, and she too dies. With no immediate relatives in Paris to care for him, Pierrot is packed off to an orphanage 100 miles away.
He’s hardly settled down in his new home, when Aunt Beatrix, his father’s estranged sister, contacts the orphanage with an offer for Pierrot to come to Germany to live with her.
At last it seems that the boy’s life is going to settle down to some sort of normality. Aunt Beatrix is the housekeeper in a stately mansion near the town of Berchtesgaden in Bavaria. It all sounds rather grand, and Pierrot sets off to his new life with high hopes for the future.
But the mansion on top of the mountain is no ordinary mansion. It’s one of the homes of Adolf Hitler and his mistress, Eva Braun. This fact means nothing to Pierrot. These two glamorous but shadowy figures are simply “the master” and “the mistress” to the young, innocent boy who has come to live in the mansion on top of the mountain. All he can do is respect them, be grateful to them for allowing him to come and live there, and take them as he finds them.
A frightening inevitability now seizes hold of the plot. Hitler takes the malleable Pierrot under his wing, playing the part of a kindly uncle.
As time passes, the boy is pulled into a world of danger, secrets and lies. Aunt Beatirix watches powerless from the sidelines, regretting the day she brought her nephew to the top of the mountain. Under the influence of “the master”, Pierrot embraces the Nazi cause. Can Pierrot escape the evil that is threatening to take over him?
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com