This book has been on my TBR longer than I even kept a list of my TBR. Since grade school I have been meaning to read this book, and yet for some unexplainable reason (a mixture of procrastination and pure laziness) I never got around to until now. Not only is this book featured on pretty much every list of books to read before you die, but it’s also one of the best-selling books of all time.
For those who have never heard of this book (first, I’ll question if you’ve been living under a rock), I’ll give a basic synopsis. This is the autobiographical diary kept by Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl living in Amsterdam with her parents and sister during WWII, around the time they were forced to go into hiding in a hidden upstairs apartment for about two years. She begins her diary on June 12, 1942 and the final entry was on August 1, 1944. Three days after her final entry, her family and the others hidden in the apartment were ratted out and taken to Auschwitz. Out of the eight members—including Anne—only Anne’s father Otto survived. It was he who published her journal after the war.
Growing up, I was always interested in this particular book because the author shared my same name—Anne with an e—and she dreamed of being a writer as I did. However, I had no idea what I was getting into when I picked up this book.
Although I’m pretty sure I already spoiled the ending and most people probably already know the basic story, I’m putting in a Spoiler Alert to be safe.
My first impressions of the book were surprisingly negative. The diary starts months before they go into hiding, and Anne is still attending school. Anne is selfish, vane, and envious. She talks badly of many of the girls her age and cannot believe how any of the boys should not have a crush on her. In a sense, she is the average thirteen year old girl. She is immature and full of herself. But in that sense, this makes the later story all the more real. After all, she’s just a completely ordinary girl who was thrown into a tragic fate she didn’t deserve to be doomed to.
Most of the diary follows the everyday lives of the eight people hiding in the apartment. Some of the reading is monotonous. For example, Anne spends two pages just documenting the supplies they got one day from the store. If this was a fiction book, I would probably suggest cutting some of the details. But because it is real, it feels more like a product of its time, similar to how Laura Ingalls Wilder documented exactly how they made maple syrup in the late 1800s.
What I’m trying to say is that this book is filled with historical details that, as a reader looking for amusement, I didn’t like. But as a history lover who is reading a brilliant descriptor of real-life people’s lives, I was impressed.
As I said early on, I wasn’t a huge fan of Anne. However, as she grows up (she is fifteen by the end), she develops an almost hypersensitive understanding of her own mind. In a sense, I think everyone in that house went through mental traumas due to their situation. Always having to be quiet. They could only go to the bathroom between certain hours. Every time there was a knock on the door of the warehouse above which they hid, they were certain they would die.
Anne becomes paranoid, wondering often if they will survive this. She clashes with her mother, her sister, and others. She is happy one day and sad the next. Each diary entry is filled with different emotions, making this diary as much of an emotional rollercoaster for the reader as it was for Anne.
One line really stood out to me that Anne wrote not six months before she and her family were discovered. She says, “I’ve reached the point where I hardly care whether I live or die. The world will keep on turning without me, and I can’t do anything to change events anyway.”
It seems ironic that she makes this statement, considering how many lives she has touched in the many decades since her young death. Could she have known that her book would touch the lives of so many, and often be considered the autobiography that defined an age of terror in Europe.
While I will say this book was an interesting read, it was also difficult to get through. It’s slow-moving and repetitive. It is an examination of human nature as well as a product of its time. If you are looking for amusement or something fast-paced, this diary is not for you. However, if you are looking to study a world and people entirely different than our modern one, I would highly recommend it.
It’s the type of book that I would argue that everyone should read sometime in their life. But for me, I don’t plan to read it again any time soon, but I’m glad I read it once.
Have you guys read it? I know it’s a common book to be assigned in school, but I never read it then. Let me know your thoughts about this classic, follow my blog for more madness, and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,