Anne Frank

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The Diary Of A Young Girl – Anne Frank

Published September 1, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Anne Frank’s extraordinary diary, written in the Amsterdam attic where she and her family hid from the Nazis for two years, has become a world classic and a timeless testament to the human spirit. Now, in a new edition enriched by many passages originally withheld by her father, we meet an Anne more real, more human, and more vital than ever. Here she 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 wry, candid observations of her companions. Facing hunger, fear of discovery and death, and the petty frustrations of such confined quarters, Anne writes with adult wisdom and views beyond her years. Her story is that of every teenager, lived out in conditions few teenagers have ever known.

What did I think?:

The Diary Of A Young Girl is one of those pieces of non fiction that occupies a very special place in my heart. I’ve read it a few times now at different points in my life through my adolescence right through to adulthood and each time I’ve managed to get something unique out of each reading experience. It’s not a five star read for me and that’s only because, I have to be honest, I do find parts of Anne’s diary a bit slower than others but it earns a rightful place on my favourites shelf because of what it’s given me over the years. Over this past year, I’ve challenged myself to a little experiment where I have a current read, a work of non fiction and a favourite re-read on the go at the one time. I set this challenge for myself as I realised I have a host of non fiction books on my shelves that just aren’t getting read and that I need to get round to, whilst also realising that with all the exciting new releases coming in, I don’t get a chance to re-read the books on my favourite shelves. The Diary Of A Young Girl is one of my all-time favourites and after this latest re-read, definitely deserves to keep its spot on the shelf.

Anne Frank, the author of the diary entries put into a collection by her father, Otto Frank.

If you haven’t managed to get round to reading this book yet (and I feel like it should be required reading in ALL schools!), Anne Frank is a young girl from a Jewish family who is forced to go into hiding with her parents, sister and another family when the Nazis descend upon their town and begin to remove all people of the Jewish faith to camps and ghettos, basically sealing their fate to one of misery, poverty, disease and in far too many scenarios, death. Assisted by some friends, the two families are ensconced in a Secret Annex concealed from the world by means of a bookcase which opened onto their tiny living quarters where they were forced to hide for two years. Most of the time they had to exist in complete silence because of the workers in the office below or the proximity of the other houses to their own space. Discovery of the family would result in deportation and execution of all those that hid there and of those that helped them evade the authorities so playing by the rules of the house, being as quiet as possible and desperately awaiting the end of the war became normal life for the families that lived there.

Reconstruction of the bookcase that hid the doorway to The Secret Annex.

Image from: By Bungle – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4132164

As I mentioned earlier on in my review, I’ve managed to extract something different from each experience I’ve had reading The Diary Of A Young Girl. Reading it as a teenager, I felt strangely close to Anne and I felt a well of emotions being stirred up regarding the horrific situation she finds herself in, her normal feelings as a young teenager herself (particularly about boys!) and those awkward adolescent moments where the hormones are raging and you feel yourself developing into a woman coupled with the confusion that often accompanies these thoughts and feelings. Having to cope with all of this whilst living in such close quarters with her family, another family and having no means of escape left me feeling so uncomfortable and sorry for Anne that at times, I had to silently applaud her for her tenacity, humour and bravery that is clearly apparent and so endearing throughout her diary entries.

On my latest reading of this book, I got even more than I ever could have expected from it emotionally speaking and that’s because I had the good fortune to visit Amsterdam about eight years ago and more specifically, the house and Secret Annex where Anne Frank was hidden. It was an experience I will never, ever forget, especially when I saw how small their quarters actually were. It was frightening to think that eight people had to live in such a small space and I couldn’t stop saying to my partner how unbelievable it was that they could survive in those cramped, overcrowded conditions for so long and all parties managed to keep their sanity. However, there are two stand-out points that I take away from Diary Of A Young Girl that I find particularly heart-breaking. The first is that Anne’s story does NOT have a happy ending and it’s especially hard to read, knowing this and seeing her joyful optimism for the end of the war, having a normal life and realising her dreams of becoming a writer. This leads me onto the second point – Anne is quite obviously a hugely talented writer. Her diary entries are succinct, empowering, beautiful, raw and so very authentic and it’s devastating to think of what she could have done in her life if she had been given the chance to see the end of the war and become an adult. Even writing about it now makes me feel so emotional and it’s definitely a book I’ll be re-visiting in the future, it’s too important not to.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

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Short Stories Challenge – What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank – Nathan Englander – From the collection What We talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank

Published June 17, 2013 by bibliobeth

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Illustration by Clifford Harper/agraphia.co.uk

What’s it all about?:

From the up-and-coming young American writer who has contributed to McSweeney’s and written for The New Yorker comes a masterful collection of short stories that has already received rave reviews from many of the most prominent writers working today. Some of the stories are comic masterpieces, some embody as dark a vision of the universe as you are likely to encounter, and all of them showcase a writer grappling with the great questions of modern life. The title story “What We Talk about When We Talk about Anne Frank” is homage to Raymond Carver whose story involved a couple chatting and drinking gin in an atmosphere with increased tension as the alcohol dis-inhibits and their tongues loosen.

What did I think?:

This is the second story in my short story challenge, please see my previous post HERE. I haven’t read anything by Nathan Englander before, but I’ve had my eye on this collection for a while, after becoming intrigued with the title. The title story features two Jewish couples, the wives of which are school friends and haven’t seen each other for a while, so it becomes quite an emotional reunion with copious amounts of alcohol (kosher of course), and “getting high.” Deb and her husband are the hosting couple, and their friends are Ultra-Orthodox Jerusaleumites living in Israel, who are no longer Lauren and Mark, but are known as Shoshana and Yerucham. Our narrator, the husband, adds a spot of humour to the situation, and his wife Deb often has to gently restrain him with a hand on his arm so he doesn’t put his foot right in it. I loved him as a character and wished we could see more of his inner thoughts as they were often highly amusing and can be seen as things we might think but never say.

As the night goes on, and the couples become more intoxicated and a bit looser, they start to volunteer information/stories that they  might not usually do, in a sober state. Oh dear, a recipe for disaster! They play the “Anne Frank” game which Deb is a big fan of, being a bit “obsessed” by the Holocaust, according to her husband. I’ll keep quiet on what exactly the game consists of, but it is guaranteed that they will all look at each other in a new light. As the title story for this short story collection, and the first I’ve read of Nathan Englander, I really enjoyed it, and thought he captured the humour in the situation very effectively. I’ve read reviews that this story is the worst of the collection, but if that is the case, I’m looking forward to the rest! Great characterisation, spot-on humour, and definitely makes you think afterwards.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT SHORT STORY: Diving Belles by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles