I don’t know how I got through school without reading this book. It was never a required text and I never needed it for research. At some point, another blogger gave me the gentle urging I needed. I needed to read this book. Well, in my case listen to it, but all the sam. I’m so glad I finally did.
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Summary from Goodreads:
In 1942, with Nazis occupying Holland, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl and her family fled their home in Amsterdam and went into hiding. For the next two years, until their whereabouts were betrayed to the Gestapo, they and another family lived cloistered in the “Secret Annexe” of an old office building. Cut off from the outside world, they faced hunger, boredom, the constant cruelties of living in confined quarters, and the ever-present threat of discovery and death.
In her diary Anne Frank recorded vivid impressions of her experiences during this period. By turns thoughtful, moving, and amusing, her account offers a fascinating commentary on human courage and frailty and a compelling self-portrait of a sensitive and spirited young woman whose promise was tragically cut short.
I’m not sure what I expected of this book, but it’s very different from any other book focusing on the Holocaust. It doesn’t focus on the Holocaust much at all. It gives us a girl who’s living through the fear of being found and having to live with her knowledge of what’s going on outside her small world. It’s a great story of hope and resilience in the face of a terrible situation. I was happy to find it upbeat, with Anne frequently referring to what she would do when she grew up or was released from the annexe. The tragedy of it came from the dramatic irony that the reader knows Anne did not survive to these things. Her wonderful, beautiful life was cut short. Her incredibly written words are limited and we are lucky that they’ve made their way to print at all. The play was mentioned a few times in the essays after the book and I’ve seen it twice, each time shocking me to silence. If you haven’t seen it, I won’t say anything, but the way the ending is done leaves me speechless.
Anne had a knack for describing her roommates. We’re able to see them all brought to life in very different personalities, all portrayed wonderfully on paper. She’s able to capture the quietness of Margot and solemness of her father very well. She doesn’t describe the conspirators in the same way and I think there are two reasons for that. She isn’t living with them 24/7 and a lot of Anne’s writing and observations come from spending so much time with the other inhabitants. The second is that she didn’t feel they were as interesting to write about. We get a little bit about stomach problems and parties, but not the kind of character analysis we get of the others. Their lives were normal; they didn’t have to live in the annexe.
Anne described herself well and I fell in love with the rebellious, smart young girl. I enjoyed reading her internal reflections and see her mature in the two years she was in hiding. Again, knowing how the story ended was hard because it made me want to cry as I fell in love with her, wanting to tell her to make things right with her mother because there was an end date to their time together.
I remember having a rebellious time with my mother when I was growing up. I think most girls do. It was when my mom had to stop dictating what I did because I had the brain to make my own decisions and make the right ones. She had to trust me to do what was best. I can’t imagine how that dynamic played out in the annexe because Anne couldn’t get away from her mother to make any decisions on her own and anything she did was seen by seven other people.
I enjoyed hearing the ways the roommates found to interact with the outside world. The correspondence courses were a genius idea and I liked that they were able to help at the business after hours and be helpful there. I thought what they did to be useful and to feel as normal as possible was fascinating and I think the conspirators did the best job they could at helping them.
The relationship between Peter and Anne was hard for me to read. I had mixed feelings about it. On one hand, it gave Anne a sense of joy and she obviously had some feelings for Peter and we can only assume he had some back. But at the same time, it must have been hard for the others in the Annexe to see them together, particularly Margot who was then left alone without a partner. It feels like a lot of it was convenience and I think it was wrong of Peter to have any kind of romantic relationship with a much younger girl, but I don’t fault him for trying to find happiness and letting Anne be happy as well. It must have been nice to have a friend in that situation.
The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Susan Adams. I think she did a wonderful job and helped me hear Anne’s voice. It must have been difficult to deal with the footnotes and other languages and make it sound like story telling. Susan had a good voice for this story because she sounds young, but she was able to bring a level of maturity to the voice that Anne developed during her tie in the annexe. I would recommend this edition.
I wasn’t sure what to say about a theme for this book, but the recent attacks in Paris make this easy. The reason we read Anne Frank’s diary and the reason it’s lived so long is because it’s told the story of one person who was attacked for what she believed. In the wake of an ISIS attack, it’s easy to think all Muslims want to kill Parisians but that would be the same as Hitler thinking all Jews are ruining Germany and need to be exterminated. It’s too easy for us to group people together and blame them all for the actions of one. Anne Frank teaches us that not everyone is the same. Sometimes it’s a young Jewish girl and how ordinary she was and maybe now we need a Muslim Anne Frank to remind us that not all Muslims are extremist terrorists. Some of them just want to be writers and might have a crush on their neighbors. Just saying.
Writer’s Takeaway: The amazing thing about Anne’s diary is how young she was when she wrote it. I’m told you can develop a talent for writing, but seeing how instinctively Anne seemed to understand description and storytelling makes me wonder how much is natural talent. Anne’s writing isn’t complicated or complex; it’s honest and truthful. It’s wonderfully simple and that’s what we love about it.
I’m so glad I finally read this classic. 5 out of 5 Stars.
Until next time, write on.
The Diary of Anne Frank | Jane Austen’s World