Friday, 22 January 2010

Book Review: The Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank)

We are doing a Book Review Blog Chain again on AW. It's quite strange that though I read far more fiction than non-fiction, whenever I am supposed to write a review, I am always reading non-fiction. I am not really much of a reviewer, so I write my own experience of the book. This particular book, "The Diary of a Young Girl" by Anne Frank, trascends genres for me. It is simply remarkable, and no amount of adjectives are going to do justice to what reading experience it made for me. Okay, let's start from the beginning. Most of you have probably heard of Anne Frank, but if you haven't, she was a jewish teenager in amsterdam, who went into hiding with her family during WWII. Anne, along with her parents and sister, and four other people (another family, and a single man) hid in an annex of her father's office for two years before they were found on August 4, 1944. Reading about wars, especially about people's personal experiences is a difficult thing for many people. One of my colleagues owns this book but has never read it. I said to her that she must read it. She said she doesn't like reading sad stories. I dropped the topic then, but it has bothered me. I don't particularly like sad stories either, but we cannot ignore our past just because it is sad. And in cases like Anne Frank's Diary, it is about more than a short story. It is about a person's journey. It is about the life they lived, not the one they lost. I think it deserves to be read. Anne started her diary at the age of 13 when she got one for a birthday present. Soon afterwards, they went into hiding, but throughout those two years Anne kept the diary. What is remarkable is that it is a diary of a teenager, but also a very insightful girl who decided she wanted to be a writer. She called her diary "Kitty" and really treated it like a person, because she had never been able to completely confide in any one person. Kitty was the only one Anne could bare her soul to. Writing became her salvation. Along with the complains about family, and the teenage emotions, as the times passes, Anne's maturity is clearly in evidence. At 14, she is already on the road to search for self, to understand herself and to understand the world. War is of course part of her entries, but majority of focus is given to life; their life in the Annex, and Anne's own feelings and hopes for the future. Anne's parents put great weight on education; both Anne and her sister were clever and interested in learning. They continued to study by correspodence courses while in hiding. But I believe it was Anne's own nature, as well as the circumstances she lived in made her mature far before her years. The kind of things she starts thinking about at 14-15, I did not start thinking about until 20ish. Personally for me, this book touched me very much, because it is the first time that I have "heard" someone in their own words, whose experiences of feelings and of self-search match mine so closely that some of her entries mirror what I wrote in my diaries years ago. It was as if I was exploring my own mind, while continuing on Anne's journey. It's the person who spoke to me. War - while important - was secondary. I do believe that it is a story of a remarkably talented girl, and had she lived, she would have become a great writer. She said that "I want to go on living even after my death!" and she accomplished that with the diaries she left behind. Here are some excerpts: [still an ordinary life] Sunday, 21 June 1942 Dearest Kitty, Our entire class is quaking in its boots. The reason, of course, is the forthcoming meeting in which the teachers decide who'll move up to the next form and who'll be kept back. Half the class is making bets. [different form of fear] Thursday, 1 October 1942 Dear Kitty, Yesterday I had a horrible fright. At eight o'clock the doorbell suddenly rang. All I could think of was that someone was coming to get us, you know who I mean. But I calmed down when everybody swore it must have been either pranksters or the postman. [growing up] Saturday, 22 January 1944 Dearest Kitty, Can you tell me why people go to such lengths to hide their real selves? Or why I always behave very differently when I'm in the company of others? Why do people have so little trust in one another? I know there must be a reason, but sometimes I think it's horrible that you can't ever confide in anyone, not even those closest to you. [a writer] Wednesday, 5 April 1944 ...I'm my best and harshest critic. I know what's good and what isn't. Unless you write yourself, you can't know how wonderful it is... ...I want to go on living even after my death! And that's why I'm so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that's inside me! When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived! But, and that's a big question, will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer? I hope so, oh, I hope so very much, because writing allows me to record everything, all my thoughts, ideals and fantasies. Rest of the Participants in the Blog Chain Are: PREVIOUS - Collectonian - Lost Wanderer - NEXT - DavidZahir - RavenCorrinCarluk - Jackie A - Forbidden Snowflake - veinglory -


  1. I read "Anne Frank" when I was about the same age as herself, and even though it has been years since re-reading it, the words of that teenage girl living a mundane horror to avoid a far more terrible one stays with me. Thanks so much for reminding me of her.

  2. I haven't read this since middle school. You brought back a lot of memories.

  3. I've never read this book, but reading your review inspired me to actually go read up on who she was. I knew the very basics, that she was a girl who was in hiding with her family and eventually died, but I never knew she was an aspiring writer, nor the circumstances of the hiding and her death (I always thought the Nazi's had found the family and killed them on the spot). Thank you for inspiring me to learn :-)

  4. Zahir and Raven, I am glad I reminded you. While it's not exactly a pleasant book, I think it's a story worth remembering.

    Collectonian, I hope you will one day read it, and find it rewarding. I think of remembering the story as a tribute to people who suffered. It's impossible for us to sympathise with everyone, especially when those days are so far removed from us, but when I read a personal account like this, it makes them bit for real for me.

  5. They are running the Ann Frank diaries again on tv here in the UK, and also several documentaries too.
    Apparently the woman who hid the Frank family died a few days ago. They ran a recent interview with her on the news.
    I couldn't help wondering how I would have coped under such circumstances, and came to the conclusion, probably not half as well.
    Thanks for sharing.

  6. This is a very touching book, I've read it several time and I enjoyed it. However the worst thing for me is to know that she died just two months before they were freed, I mean 2 months, 8 weeks, some 60 days, that's what gets me most when I read this.

  7. Sherry,

    I actually saw the documentary before I ever read the book. But the last scene where they pause each person and say when they died was so touching.

    it's true. The fact that they didn't survive last little bit when they had hidden for two years is somehow worse than if they had died in the beginning of the war. Yet, without those two years, we wouldn't have this wonderful legacy from Anne.