Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl
is one of those books that I have heard of since I was a wee lad and never got around to reading until now that I am no longer a lad (but still rather wee in stature). A few weeks ago I was looking at one of those “Books to Read Before you Die” lists (I forget which one, there are so many such lists) and Anne Frank’s “Diary” is featured quite prominently. It reminded me that if I were to be hit by a meteorite or some such personal calamity as I go foraging for lunch I will have missed reading this book and in spite of having it in my TBR for years. So I read it.
I am assuming that the 1995 translation by Susan Massotty from Dutch to English is an accurate one as there is no mention of it being poorly translated in the online resources (Wikipedia etc). Under this assumption it is interesting how Anne’s narrative sounds rather like something written by an average teenager at the beginning of the book and progressively become more thoughtful, philosophical and even profound towards the end. This is remarkable because the diary only spans just under couple of years (1942-1944). Her prose is very easy to read, the ordinariness of the language and much of her thoughts belies the fact that this is probably the most famous diary ever written and it follows that Anne must have been an extraordinary girl.
Most of the diary is a depiction of Anne’s day to day life among the seven other people she was in hiding with in a secret annex behind a company’s building in Amsterdam. Some of the diary’s entries are more interesting than others. Anne starts off sounding giddy and perky then as the months in hiding drag on and on she becomes angsty, sad, afraid and miserable. Towards the end of the book she becomes happier as she falls in love with a boy in her group of fugitives and the tide of war turns against the Nazis.
The book made me feel a little claustrophobic at times as Anne’s group of eight fugitives is stuck in the annex. Her depiction of air raids and burglary is vivid and frightening. As time goes by Anne’s circumstances begin to worsen, food becomes scarce and relationships within the group begin to deteriorate. The book does become a little repetitious at times but then this is not a work of fiction and life is repetitious, especially under the circumstances Anne was living in where life tends to be either static and boring or alarming and frightening. This being non-fiction and I had no idea where the book was going, though from the preface I already knew it would not end well for Anne and was kind of dreading the end of the book. In a novel you would usually get some kind of foreboding passages from the author but in real life momentous things can happen very suddenly. So I was reading this diary until it suddenly ended without any kind of signing off from the author. It felt as if the Gestapo suddenly showed up to arrest Anne in mid sentence. That is the most frightening part of the book for me, the stoppage that came out of nowhere. The Afterward (not written by Anne) is truly shocking and heartbreaking. So much so that I doubt I can ever bring myself to reread this book.
My audiobook edition (cheap if you buy the Kindle edition first) is read by American actress Selma Blair, I remember her well from the movies Cruel Intentions
. Initially I felt that I would have preferred a British narrator, someone like Kate Winslet perhaps; obviously there is no good reason for this as Anne was neither British nor American. However, Ms. Blair did a good job and soon she was the voice of Anne Frank for me.
Definitely a five stars book but I am not sure how heartily I can recommend it as it makes me kind of maudlin. Poor Anne, she deserved better.