Saturday, May 15, 2010

Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

I think that everyone knows who Anne Frank is/was. She is renowned for keeping a diary of her time in hiding during the Second World War. It chronicles her life in hiding in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, which extended from July 6, 1942 through August 1, 1944 (her last entry although her family was arrested and sent to concentration camps on August 4, 1944).

The diary begins before the family goes into hiding. Specifically, it starts with descriptions of her thirteenth birthday and the presents that she received - most notably the diary. Most of the early sections describe her mundane worries and life - grades, schoolmates and her relationships. However, she also talks about the changes that have come about in The Netherlands since the Nazis had occupied the country.The family, comprised of Anne, her sister, Margot, and her parents (Otto and Edith), opted to go into hiding when Margo received a call up for a work camp run by the Nazis.  About a week later, the van Pels family (referred to in the diary as the Van Daans) moved in. The members of their family included a son named Peter, and his parents. A third party arrived much later on. There was very limited contact with the outside world and that contact was limited to the radio and the people that helped the Franks and Van Pels (Miep Gies, Victor Kugler, Johannes Kleiman, Bep Voskuijl). Most of Anne's writings focused on her relationships with the people that were in hiding with her and with the people that helped them while they were there. She also provides some detail about their daily life - what they ate, the stresses of not knowing where their food was coming from and the fear of being found out.  Anne focused mostly on her relationship with her mother (whom she had much ambivalence and often contempt for), Margot (her sister, of whom she was often jealous, though she did become closer to her later on) and Peter (with whom she initially despised but with whom she then formed a romantic bond with).

For a girl that wrote for herself initially and who was between the ages of 13 and 15 when she wrote, the writing is of tremendously high quality.  It's apparent that Anne had a talent for writing. Anne showed tremendous insight and a tremendous capacity for self-revelation, even at such a young age.  In some ways, though, she was almost too moody and sometimes repeated herself. The most interesting parts of the diary, for me, were the parts where she talked about her day to day life.  I was most interested in knowing what it was like living in hiding. 

This is a must read.

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