In all my years as a reader I don’t think I have ever come across a more “frank” voice as the voice of Anne Frank in “The Diary of a Young Girl”. The diary of a Young Girl is a narration of Anne Frank’s life between the years 1942 and 1944. The most striking impression I got from the book was the sincerity in the words and the power of description of a very young girl of 13. Since Anne was merely keeping a diary of events in her life, it is understandable that there are really no holds barred. She takes the reader through the experience of life during The Third Reich.
The book begins when Anne receives a diary for her birthday (June 12 1942), Anne begins to write two days after her birthday and takes the reader into a world of boy crushes, family everyday living and the many wondering expressions of a teenager which everyone can relate to. In addition to these mundane things Anne Frank is besieged by the fear, worries and imminent dangers of being caught by the Nazi. Being a jew, life was not easy and that’s putting it lightly.
I found that once I started reading I was eager to go back to the book, her words haunted my days and when I woke up in the morning after a night of dreams, some of my dreams had been woven around the life of Anne. So deeply did her story penetrate my being. Initially, the diary skips along happily with Anne being a chatterbox at school and having to get punished by her teacher Mr. Keesing who requested that she write an essay on “A chatterbox”. Her essay and the other essays she had to write as a result of her apparent love of gab gives the reader an image of a fun loving, intelligent and quick witted girl. The diary soon becomes sad and uncertain when Anne and her family have to go into hiding due to the call-up notice received for her sister, Margot from the SS. The reader must note that this was during the occupation of the Netherlands by the Nazi.
Anne’s father, Otto Frank takes the family to his office building with the collaboration of his former colleagues. The back of the building is ingeniously converted to a living quarters. Anne’s power of description is once again exhibited as she describes in detail the manner in which the back of the office has been converted for living. Worthy of mention is the bookcase which is placed at the entrance to the back office.
The diary continues by mentioning all the inhabitants of “the secret annex” as she later called it. There were eight occupants in hiding; Anne’s parents and her sister as well as her father’s business partner, his wife and son. Later a dentist is taken in who has to share a room with Anne. What I enjoyed most about her diary is the clarity of thoughts she exhibits and the maturity with which she analyses situations. Anne is able to state her feelings for every occupant of the secret annex in very clear statements with a maturity that is rare in a teenager. She is not afraid of anyone and expresses her opinions without holding back. Anne is very aware of her own excesses and throughout her diary you can feel her desire to be a good person, the teenage feeling of being misunderstood and the mood swings reminiscent of a Gemini can also be gleaned.
Beyond the crushes on Peter, and self-discovery, Anne is a brave girl with a lot of faith. Every day in hiding was apparently terrifying for her and the entire family but…Anne takes each day with faith, she expresses her sadness for not seeing the sun or lying outside to truly enjoy nature and cherishes the moments when she can smell the air through the windows they have to keep locked.
I tried to imagine living for two years in such confinement and I found the thought quite inconceivable. I was immediately ashamed of the way I take things for granted. Just thinking about what they had to do to stay in hiding without being found out; not flushing the toilet, keeping lights off, windows shut, staying very quiet, eating rotten food and so on, but Anne’s outlook to all these is relayed with humour. She is optimistic for most parts and shows gratitude for the small things, she often prays to sail through these very terrible difficulties. Sometimes she finds herself sobbing in the dark. A profound fear grips the occupants when the sky is rent with air raids and gun strikes, somehow the house is never affected. They are also attacked by robbers sometimes. Through all the experiences, Anne keeps writing in her diary. The occupants celebrate their birthdays with little gifts and such days are noted by Anne. I was very touched by these little celebrations in confinement and made a mental note to always celebrate my own birthdays.
At other times, Anne swings between trying to understand herself, love for her father, hatred for her mother and being quick to state that she knows she is different. Her short friendship with Peter is a whirlwind! Her thoughts during those times are penned down with apparent delight and confusion at where the friendship would lead. She is also realistic enough to admit that she doesn’t know what will happen after the war.
Anne speaks about politics a little bit. The reader will find that though young, her mind is very developed and independent. For most part, I kept wondering to myself, was I like this at 13, 14, 15? Her vocabulary is also very developed and she shows herself to be an excellent writer and story teller.
Throughout the book, Anne’s wit and humor can be appreciated as well as her compassion for their helpers (her father’s colleagues) who make sure they are not found out and always bring them gifts and stories from outside.
Anne’s diary ends shortly before they are found out and taken away to concentration camps.
I feel I should go into every detail in the book but I cannot. Alas, this is only a review. I finished this book with one dominant thought: I want to be more grateful for the little things.
Have you read this book? Share your thoughts!