Through Pages and Hearts She Lives
(A Book Review of Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl)
“I feel the suffering of millions,” Anne Frank wrote in an entry on her diary dated July 15, 1944. Unknown to its young author almost sixty years after its publication, her story would become a testimony and a source of comfort and support to those millions who also went through the same harrowing experience as she did — it is a stirring document that has touched the hearts of readers all over the world.
The Diary of a Young Girl, as most of you Gentle Readers already know, is the true account of the life of Anne Frank who, with his father Otto, mother Edith and sister Margot, along with Mr. and Mrs Van Daan with their son Peter alongside Alfred Dussel, was forced to go into hiding in an Amsterdam attic, dubbed as the Secret Annexe, at the outset of World War II and at the height of Jew persecution. Simply put, it is the story of a young girl growing up in the most horrific time in history.
Reading her diary is like an invitation to an inner world and at the same time reliving the horrors of an age gone past but still bears significance and relevance in light of the lessons one could glean from that segment of world history. Anne Frank vividly captured what it was like to live during those times, in cramped quarter with people you don’t like, people you disagree with; of not having the freedom to go anywhere you like, whenever you want, as well as not even having the privilege to move around for fear that the slightest of noise might rouse the suspicion of neighbors; the constant threat of starvation and illness, always on the alert every time when there’s a bomb raid and the dread of discovery by the Gestapo and imprisonment.
But more than that, the diary of Anne Frank depicts the drama of adolescence in face of extreme political and social upheaval. In her early entries we see a self-absorbed Anne. Yet as we read through, it is as if getting to know a friend who bared herself to us, sharing and being involved in her hopes and dreams, fears and desires. We also witness her insecurity and jealousy to her sister Margot, whom she feel gets all the praise, the affirmative attention, the most loved by her parents; on how she is always at loggerheads with her mother whom she describes in her diary in an unfavorable light along with Mrs. Van Daan; as she confides in us what it feels to be the unwanted, the misunderstood, the unloved one and always the receiving end of negative criticisms, continually scolded for being the talkative know-it-all.
Nevertheless, at the second-half of the book we see an Anne in full blossom — a girl turning into a woman. She is now changing, maturing, yearning for her own space from adult meddling, getting in touch with her own sexuality, and on the quest for her own identity. Aside from describing the daily comings and goings at the Secret Annexe, she has also become introspective, continually questioning herself, trying to figure out what kind of person she is. Towards the end of the diary she comes to the crucial conclusion that though she may not be the way others would like her to be, she is her own person and she respects herself.
What I like with this Definitive Edition of The Diary of a Young Girl is that it contains her original diary entries as well as her revised entries which she later altered in part as she deemed that her diary might be published and can be used as document when the war is over. They also contain the previously unpublished accounts edited out by her father as the content was considered too sensitive or explicit for public taste during the 1950s.
Surprising as it may sound, Anne has had many happy moments and is even grateful in face of trying circumstances. It’s a far cry from the girl I thought would have agonized and despaired over what’s happening to her and her family, incessantly questioning God why such a misfortune befell them. In fact, Anne Frank’s diary continues to inspire people of all ages and generations love her for her purity, innocence, honesty and eternal optimism. She has come to symbolize the tragedy of a young life lost in the Holocaust and will always live in the hearts of people looking for a brighter future and believes in the inherent goodness within every human.
“I’m young and have many qualities; I’m young and strong and living through a big adventure; I’m right in the middle of it and can’t spend all day complaining because it’s impossible to have any fun! I’m blessed with many things: happiness, a cheerful disposition and strength. Everyday I feel myself maturing, I feel liberation drawing near, I feel the beauty of nature and the goodness of people around me. Everyday I think what a fascinating and amusing adventure this is! With all that, why should I despair?”
Anne Frank, May 3, 1944
Edited by Otto H. Frank and Mirjam Pressler
Translated by Susan Masotty
Published by Bantam Books
(Mass Market Paperback, First Printing, 1995 The Definitive Edition)
Started: September 16, 2010
Finished: Septmber 25, 2010