“I want to go on living even after my death! And therefore I am grateful to God for giving me this gift, this possibility of developing myself and of writing, of expressing all that is in me.” – Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
The Diary of a Young Girl: Book Review
The sun peaks just over the horizon in Southern Amsterdam; it’s the morning of June
12th, 1942. Beams of light shot by the sun break against the walls of an unassuming apartment complex with simple white-framed windows and beige brick walls. A young girl wakes her parents with excited anticipation, eager to receive her thirteenth birthday presents; she was now officially a young woman. Amongst the gifts, flowers, sweets and books she received, was a red and green notebook full of empty pages just waiting to be filled with stories.
No one at the time could have expected that this unpretentious diary of a young girl would one day be translated into over 65 languages around the world and sell more than 30 million copies in print. It was Anne Frank’s diary, and it was about to provide a historical record of one the vilest and most inhumane atrocities of World War II through the eyes of an innocent young woman whose life was cut too short.
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank first found its way to me as I browsed the
classics section of a local used book store near my home. The air was thick with the pleasant aroma of ageing paper as I fingered my way across each shelf, novel by novel, looking for another title to broaden my perspective. That’s when I found it…
All I’d ever known about Anne Frank was that she was a young Jewish girl who’d spent
years hiding in an attic from the Nazis. I knew that the book would be a tragedy and I
expected to find inspiration in the novel, but little did I know how talented she was as a writer or how much passion she had for life, love and education. It was perhaps the first novel that I’d ever opened up, experiencing heartbreak before I’d even read the first page.
Anne and her family began hiding from the Nazi occupation in Holland less than a month after receiving her diary on that thirteenth birthday. Anne’s sister Margot was wanted for interrogation by the German authorities, and rather than risking being separated, the family took to hiding in an apartment above the father’s office with the help of some of his coworkers. This was, in fact, no ordinary “attic” as I discovered, because it had space enough for all four members of the Frank family, as well as for four other acquaintances in need of a discrete hideaway.
As I lay there at night taking in the passages of this young girl’s diary, I felt as if I was
transported through the veil of time and as if I could peek into the lives of the most persecuted people in World War II. Anne’s entries were written as letters to a fictional friend named “Kitty” in an attempt to understand herself and the world a little better. She wrote about a number of issues, including the war, struggles for independence and at times romance. What struck me early on was her impressive grasp of vocabulary made vast by her love of books no doubt. Anne expressed her thoughts, ideas and feelings with clarity and depth. Her passages were mostly personal about the residents and the hideout, but they could also be surprisingly deep with philosophy.
Night after night as I dug deeper into the pages of this used novel, with its cracked red
cover and yellowed paper, I discovered more emotions within myself; hope, despair, joy and a dreaded sense of anxiety. In my experience with the book, even the warmest joy brought me a sort of heartache, because I already knew how the history unravelled…
The “secret annexe” as Anne called it, made life difficult for the occupants since they
were all restricted to such limited space, like animals penned up in a zoo. Quarrels were a regular part of life there, tensions ran high and emotions ran wild. The family played a
contraband radio which was always scanning for signs of hope and also revealed grand historical moments such as the liberation of Italy by the Allies, and the invasion of France (Aka. “D-Day”).
It was difficult to read that she had wished for death at times, was nearly forced to burn
her diary and wished to live on through her writing as if predicting her own fate; the world was at a loss when the Nazis laid waste to such beautiful souls. Anne had
nearly survived the war but, due to an informant, the group was discovered and
all sent to their deaths except one.
Anne was last seen by a friend in camp, ill and crying herself into a forever
sleep. As I finished the final pages of this book with a heavy heart, I could only imagine
the pain that her father, Otto Frank, must have felt when he realized he was the only one to survive the Jewish concentration camps. Yet thanks to him, this beautiful piece of literature was able to be published as a testament to his loving daughter and to cater to her deepest desire that she would go on living long after her death.