82 pages 2 hours read

John Boyne

The Boy at The Top of the Mountain

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2015

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more. For select classroom titles, we also provide Teaching Guides with discussion and quiz questions to prompt student engagement.

Chapters 1-4Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 1 Summary: “Three Red Spots on a Handkerchief”

The Boy at the Top of the Mountain opens in Paris, 1936. While there are small hints that World War II looms on the historical horizon (it begins in 1939), the novel’s first chapter focuses on introducing the world of seven-year-old Pierrot Fischer. His mother, Émilie, is French, while his father Wilhelm, who died three years ago, was German. Pierrot grows up speaking both French and German.

Wilhelm was a soldier in World War I but later worked as a waiter in a restaurant near the Fischer’s home. His experiences as a solder scarred him deeply, and he continued to suffer years later. He periodically drank heavily to “forget” the things he saw and did (9). Occasionally, he became violent toward Émilie. After one terrible episode when Pierrot was four, Wilhelm left home and never returned, dying a few weeks later after a train struck him.

Pierrot now lives alone with his mother, who works as a waitress in the same restaurant her husband once did. Bullied in school for being small (he is nicknamed “Le Petit”) (3), Pierrot prefers to spend his time either in the restaurant or with his Jewish neighbor, Anshel Bronstein. Anshel is deaf, but he teaches Pierrot sign language.