Monday, 15 August 2011

The Diary of a Young Girl - Anne Frank

Synopsis - Anne Frank's extraordinary diary, written in the Amsterdam attic where she and her family hid from the Nazis for two years.  This edition has been enriched by many passages originally witheld by her father.

Here Anne is first and foremost a teenage girl - stubbornly honest, touchingly vulnerable, in love with life.  She imparts her deeply secret world of soul searching and hungering for affection, rebellious clashes with her mother, romance and newly discovered sexuality and candid observations of her companions.  She faces hunger, fear of discovery and death, and the frustrations of living in such confined quarters.

Thoughts - To do a review of such a diary as this would be wrong and an injustice to the author.  I am merely offering my thoughts on reading this book for a second time.  I first read the diary in school but although I remember much from the diary, I do not remember her deepest secrets shared about puberty and sexuality. Of course, what I read was not a definitive version which was originally published in 1995.

How can we (I mean 'we' as those in living in present day Britain) imagine the conditions that Anne was exposed to.  To be hidden away for two years of your life, important years aged 13-15.  Having to share with strangers or people who were not close friends in such confined quarters.  Sharing a bedroom with a male stranger, only being able to wash and use the kitchen at certain times, living in blackout.  Is it any wonder that Anne was able to internalise and transcribe her deepest thoughts and observations on paper, the diary 'Kitty' being her only 'friend'.  The reader is drawn to the change as Anne 'grows up' in those two years from a child to a young woman.  Although her relationship with her mother does not improve per se, they reach a level of tolerance.  Anne becomes friends with her sister, of whom I felt she was a little jealous and also Peter van Daan.  Her relationship with Peter borders on more than just friendship but you note after the talk with her father, Anne withdraws slightly to ensure that she and Peter remain close friends and nothing more.  The Franks made the most of their difficult circumstances, food was scarce and what was bought was mainly black market with generous help from sympathising friends.  They had to sell most of their possessions to be able to survive -  what an adjustment -  to go from being quite wealthy to living hand to mouth.

They were luckier than many, they had good friends and despite burglaries at the warehouse they managed to remain undiscovered for 2 years until the Nazi's were tipped off.  This made me question just how many of our countrymen and kin would have done the same?  I would like to think not, but who knows what pressure the Dutch people must have been under even if they were not out and out Nazi supporters.  Those who hid Jews and were sympathetic to the cause were unbelievable brave.  To perform such generous acts of kindness knowing what the outcome could be for them, these people are truly wonderful.

I challenge anyone who didn't cry on reading the afterword.  Otto Frank was very lucky to remain alive and very sadly he was the only one.  I suppose the fact that Anne and Margot died of typhus makes us feel  a little better that at least they weren't gassed, but of course, this should never have happened.  This book should be read by all, surely this should challenge beliefs!

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