“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” – Anne Frank
It seems strange to be reviewing this book since it is a human document rather than a novel, but my experience reading it seemed too much not to share.
First things first, this is a deeply emotional book. For those who are unfamiliar with it, the book is a collection of letters Anne wrote to her diary, known as ‘Kitty’, detailing her life in a secret annexe as a Dutch Jew in the Second World War. Alongside her parents, sister, another Dutch couple, their son and a dentist, Anne managed to survive and craft a life in the annexe for over two years. The dramatic irony is very disquieting; ‘I want to live’ is one of Anne Frank’s most recurrent comments, coupled with her hopes and dreams for ‘after the war’. In that respect, the story is not dissimilar to conventional coming-of-age tales. Anne falls in love, learns more about herself through watching the actions of others, offers an introspective (and at times comical) portrayal of those around her, and ultimately discovers herself in the way that all people growing up do.
It’s the smallest details that make the book what it is: Anne shelling peas, reading books and gazing out into the street after dark. These descriptions are accompanied by hits of action such as burglars breaking into the office, food supplies dropping dangerously low, and the constantly pervading threat of discovery by the Nazis or police.
The writing style of the diary is mostly conversational, with Anne recounting the events of the day, her attitudes to the other people and her frustrations with the issues she is facing. This is broken up occasionally with sections of dialogue and her inclusion of other letters (such as correspondence between herself and her sister Margot). As the diary progresses Anne seems to recognise her own increasing maturity, portraying the actions of Dussel and the Van Daans in particular with wit and verve but also human understanding.
When the diary ends abruptly on the 1st August 1944, it is genuinely shocking. The tragic details of the rest of her life are written factually and unemotionally by the editors, in complete contrast to the vivacity of Anne’s previous diary entries. But the greatest thing I’ve taken away from reading it is that Anne Frank had the strength to keep on trying, to think of ‘the beauty that still remains’. And I think that’s something we should all try to emulate.
Words by Annabelle Fuller