I’ve put off writing this for a really long time because what is there to say? After all, how do you review what is essentially a historic text? I can’t comment on the book’s plot or pace or how well written it is because it isn’t fiction and it wasn’t exactly intended to be published. Anne had always hoped to one day write a novel entitled ‘The Secret Annexe’ about her experiences in hiding but I very much doubt whether she ever foresaw that the diary she wrote between the ages of 13 and 15 would be read by millions of people all around the world. I’ve taken this extract from the diary:
Just imagine how interesting it would be if I were to publish a novel about the Secret Annexe. The title alone would make people think it was a detective story.
Seriously, though, ten years after the war people would find it very amusing to read how we lived, what we ate and what we talked about as Jews in hiding.
I think everyone knows what happened to Anne Frank and her family. I remember learning about it at school, I’ve seen documentaries and visited exhibitions, but nothing is quite like reading the words of the girl herself.
Before writing this I decided to read some reviews on Amazon to see what other people wrote. As if I wasn’t already disgusted enough by humankind after reading the diary, this made matters a whole lot worse. Overall the book scores 4.7 out of 5, which of course is excellent and most people have positive comments to make, but I am astounded by the 1 star reviews that call the book ‘boring’ or say that ‘she whines too much’. I doubt there was a lot to do in hiding and any complaints she expresses are fully warranted given the situation she was in.
The persecution of the Jews has to be one of worst injustices of the last century. The fact that Anne spent the only teenage years she ever lived in hiding is heartbreaking. She lived in what was effectively three rooms at the back of her father’s office, unable to open the windows in case someone saw, unable to move around during the day in case warehouse workers heard and unable to flush the toilet for the same reason. What this girl and so many others like her went through is incredible, in the true sense of the word. I simply cannot comprehend this extreme racial hatred that forced thousands to flea the country or go into hiding. It’s mind-numbingly unjust, and it wasn’t even that long ago. Reading the afterword I realised that Miep Gies, one of the office staff and helpers, only died in 2010. That brought me back to reality. All this happened only 65 years ago.
The Diary of a Young Girl isn’t a story, it isn’t fiction, it’s exactly what it says on the tin – it’s Anne’s thoughts, feelings and fears – after all, ‘paper is more patient than man’. At first it’s sweet and endearing, it reminded me of myself at 13, egotistical as children are, but completely understandable. Then towards the end it turns darker as the fears of being discovered become almost unquenchable.
If you want to understand what happened on an emotional level then I fully recommend you read The Diary of a Young Girl. It’s so touching and heartfelt, but utterly devastating at the same time that a life, many lives, were taken before their time. Anne hoped to be a writer, to start a family and live a long happy life, but she never got the chance. It truly opened up my eyes to the horrors the Jews experienced, and it isn’t just learning the facts like a history lesson, it’s feeling the same feelings and sharing her fears. It does what fiction does best, it places you in her shoes. To quote To Kill a Mockingbird, ‘you never really understand a person until you consider things from [their] point of view…until you climb into [their] skin and walk around in it.’ Placed in Anne’s shoes, be prepared to feel everything with a raw edge. Anne’s diary must be one of the only good things to come out of this injustice, but it is a good thing because her memory will live on and her story will be heard. RIP Anne Frank, Margot Frank, Edith Frank, Hermann van Pels, Auguste van Pels, Peter van Pels, Fritz Pfeffer and all the other 6 million Jews and 5 million Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, disabled people and Roma who didn’t survive the holocaust.