This probably was not the best book to pick for the read-a-thon, but since reading Anne Frank Remembered several months ago I’ve been looking for a good time to revisit this one (it’s been about 15 years since I read it last). I loved getting to know Anne again, but her story is so heartbreaking. Just as I was coming to the end of the book, with about 15 pages left, I started thinking about how it would probably be best if I put the book in the freezer and pick something else up for the read-a-thon. And then I flipped the page. And the book was over. There was nothing left except the Afterward. And that was enough to leave me a sobbing heap on the couch as I cried for the hope that Anne felt, her hope that was never realized.
For those who might not know, Anne and her family, who were Jewish, went into hiding in Amsterdam in 1942. Her father, Otto Frank, and his coworkers devised a plan for him and another family to live in the secret annex of his work office. For two years, eight people lived in the cramped quarters of the second and third floor of the building. Anne, who was 13 when her family went into hiding, kept a journal (which she named Kitty) about the daily happenings in the Annex for the two years they lived there.
There are several things that surprised me about Anne. First, she has become so immortalized and idolized that I think we forget that she was a just little girl (whew…going to try and make it through this without balling my eyes out). While Anne was incredibly brave, she was hardly perfect. At times she was love sick, others she fought with her parents (and really did not like her mother). She didn’t want to stay cooped up in the Annex and at times she was a little bit of a pest. And all of these things, all of Anne’s imperfections, make me love her all the more:
“In spite of all justice and thankfulness, you can’t crush feelings. Cycling, dancing, whistling, looking out into the world, feeling young, to know that I’m free–that’s what I long for; still, I mustn’t show it, because I think if all eight of us began to pity ourselves, or went about with discontented faces, where would it lead us? Sometimes I ask myself, ‘Would anyone, either Jew or non-Jew, understand this about me, that I am simply a young girl badly in need of some rollicking fun?’ I don’t know, and I couldn’t talk about it to anyone, because then I know I should cry. Crying can bring such relief” (111).
Another thing that surprised me was how mundane some of the entries were. This goes back to the idea that Anne is a real girl, not an idealistic caricature. And while some of her entries were simply what the dinner conversation was that night or what their weekly menu was or how she was tired of Mr. Dussel, she also talks about her dreams and desires–some immediate and some for the future. She is a hopeful girl who is full of life. But the book was not written as a memoir in hindsight of the events–what she writes about is immediate. To me this makes her story a little more untainted than some of the other accounts might be (I hate to say that any of the others might be colored–but she was writing about what she knew/felt when she knew/felt those things).
Anne Frank’s diary is incredibly touching. Not only is it a look into the lives of the eight in hiding, but it is also the look at how the hiding and war affected a teenaged girl who on one hand grew up entirely too fast but on the other never really got to grow up at all. If you haven’t read it, I would highly recommend it. The book isn’t terribly long, and while it isn’t necessarily “light” reading it is insightful and beautiful.