I want to start by saying I am so glad I picked up this book. I had been thinking about reading it for a long time and when it was time to choose my next book, I felt like it was time to read Anne’s diary.
I recently returned from a three week trip to Salzburg, Austria. On the 31st July we went on a trip to Mauthausen concentration camp. Peter van Pels, known as Peter van Daan in the book, was moved from Auschwitz concentration camp to Mauthausen in January 1945. He was forced to be a part of the ‘death march’ from one camp to the other. He died at Mauthausen on the 5th May 1945, just three days before the camp was liberated.
I reflected upon my visit to Mauthausen after finishing the book. The afterword had such an impact after reading the story of these people. It was very sad to read about what happened to them after they were arrested in the secret annexe. I remember the lady who took us around the camp asking us to find Peter van Pels on one of the memorials. At that point I didn’t know his or Anne’s story.
The Diary of a Young Girl is the true account of one’s girls struggle to deal with her emotions and fears during WWII. It is, at its heart, a coming of age story, but it is set in the context of the most extraordinary circumstances. Imagine dealing with the trials of growing up in the confines of a tiny house from which you cannot escape.
Anne had to deal with her struggles with nothing more than her mind as she didn’t feel close enough with her family to talk to them about serious issues. She had to live with the constant fear of being discovered in hiding and the burden of guilt and sadness for all those who were taken to the camps.
She was saddened by the lack of love she feels for her mother, but she managed to accept that they would never be close. You can tell how much she changed as a person during the family’s years in hiding. She realised how to have your own opinion instead of just always agreeing with your parents. She realised that the blame of the constant quarrels could usually be shared eventually between the families.
Anne’s fascination with Peter in the middle of the book was a difficult time for her. She wanted so much for him to open up to her. The pair started to have deeper conversations as time went on. I wonder what would have become of their relationship had they not been separated.
This is an emotional story and Anne’s ability to communicate her deepest thoughts in her writing is astounding. I love that Anne had a big passion for writing. She wrote in no uncertain terms that she wanted to be a writer and have her story ‘The Secret Annexe’ published. Since Anne’s words were so important to her I thought I would end my review by sharing a few quotes which I picked out as I read through the pages.
“I’ve learned one thing: you only really get to know a person after a row. Only then can you judge their true character!” – page 46
“Really, it’s not easy being the badly brought up centre of attention of a family of nit-pickers.” – page 72
“I decided to grit my teeth and practice being courageous.” – page 117
“Who else but me is ever going to read these letters?” – page 141
This final quote I found to be very important, because she never knew the effect her story has had on so many readers around the world. I really recommend this book for any reader. Anne’s gives us the bare truth of a young girls mind and this kind of fearless disclosure should never be lost of the bottom of the book pile.
I also read a little follow up book, which provided some more context around Anne’s life. It is called Anne Frank’s Story and it is written by Carol Anne Lee. It was published in 2001, with the purpose of helping younger readers understand her story. I think it was important to read this book as well because it explained more about what happened to the families after they were discovered. I learnt about the rest of Anne’s frightful journey and the circumstances of her death at Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp in 1945.
I am interested in reading a lot more books set during WWII as well as factual books about that time. Let me know if you would like me to talk more about this on my blog.