The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank

I think the reason that I had left reading ‘The Diary of a Young Girl’ by Anne Frank for such a long time, or certainly put off by it for so long, was the fact I worried that I wouldn’t be moved by it and what that would say about me. The story behind the story, well true story behind the true story, of Anne Frank is probably as famous as the book itself, indeed it is why it is so well known. What would people think of me, and indeed what would I think of myself, if I read these diary entries and came away feeling nothing? Fortunately I haven’t had to ask myself those questions because whilst it didn’t have me weeping these diary entries have left an impression on me.

Penguin Books, paperback, 1947, reprint 2000, non fiction, 368 pages, borrowed from a friend

It seems slightly unnecessary to give any background to the story of ‘The Diary of a Young Girl’ by Anne Frank because I think most of us know it. Forced into hiding from the SS in 1942 as Jewish family in Amsterdam the Frank family move into the hidden annexe of a warehouse in order to escape the Nazi’s and the concentration camps of World War Two. Whilst in hiding the youngest daughter of the family, Anne, kept a diary of her life there until they were unfortunately found out – and I don’t think that is a spoiler considering the fact that Anne died in one of the concentration camps and that is what has made this story become so well known.

When I started the book I have to admit I didn’t think I was going to get on with it, which roughly translates to me not getting on with Anne Frank, people will be up in arms about that but bear with me. Anne Frank was a thirteen year old girl when she wrote what were her personal diaries and ones I am sure she had no intention of becoming read the way they are today, so they are going to be filled with flights of fancy, gossip about the girls at school she doesn’t like and the boys she does. I did feel so sad when I read that the reason she wanted a diary as she didn’t feel she had a true friend, though initially I thought I knew why that might be. As soon as I got my head accustomed to that, and the fact that (and she admits this herself in her diaries) she was rather a precocious young girl it all started to work and by about fifty pages in I started to really like Anne and was enjoying being party to her inner thoughts. I can see why this would be a very effective read for younger people of Anne’s age.

Anne was definitely wiser than her years. As the book goes on she matures, in part due to age and in part the situation and her insights into people is quite fascinating. I had no idea that the Frank family lived in such a large annexe, in my head it has always been that Anne and her family lived in a tiny box room rather than the two story annexe she describes, I also had no idea that they lived with another family, the van Daans, and a single man, Albert Dussel. The way Anne describes how they interact, the highs and lows of living with so many people in such small a space with no escape and how you never really know people until you live with them is fascinating, it’s also very claustrophobic.  It’s her blunt young personality and way of describing her observations that do almost make you feel you are there with them all.

The second thing I didn’t expect was how funny ‘The Diary of a Young Girl’ would be. Her observations and way of writing about her co-habitants, in particular berating and criticising Mrs van Daan who spends all her time criticising everyone else, are superb. These also make the darker moments, such as her fear during the bombing of Amsterdam and when they hear people in the warehouse below when no one should be there, become all the darker. I did get a little bit bored in the middle, but that is the whole point, Anne was bored to bits stuck with the same people and same routine day after day. It completes the picture of what it must have been like even if I was tempted to skim read – but I didn’t.

Obviously when you read what happened to the family that you have spent the time with its a very difficult thing to take on board. Something which I don’t think, no matter how great a fictional version of these events might be can ever truly captured like they are in a book like this. One of the saddest things for me about ‘The Diary of a Young Girl’ for me was that Anne Frank clearly had a talent for writing; the way at such a young age she managed to make me almost feel I was with her in the annexe only shows what great talent could have been ahead. I think actually that might have been the most poignant thing for me about the whole experience of reading it. That mixed in with feeling like you really get to know Anne because it is such an open and honest account does leave you with a feeling of melancholy, but we need that don’t we, so we don’t forget what happened.

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33 Comments

Filed under Anne Frank, Non Fiction, Penguin Books, Penguin Classics, Review

33 responses to “The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank

  1. sharkell

    I am so pleased that this book had an impact on you! Your post summarised perfectly my reaction to the book.

  2. A wonderful review Simon. I haven’t read it since I was at school, but last year I read Sharon Dogar’s book ‘Annexed’ which was a retelling of their story told from Peter’s pov, which I enjoyed up to a point – maybe I should re-read the original – I have a copy somewhere.

    • There are a few books that have been inspired by this book I think Annabel. The one you describe sound interesting. I think an author did a book called ‘The Boy Who Love Anne Frank’, and recently there has been a short story collection called ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank’ and a book about someone who finds her living in his attic when he buys a new house in ‘Hope: A Tragedy’. The last one sounds darkly funny and yet moving I might have to read it I think.

  3. Great write-up of your experiences with this, Simon. Anne Frank’s Diary was one of the first books I really obsessed over – it was so fascinating, and saddening. That was when I was about 14, and I haven’t read it since, but I think I should read it again.

    It is, of course, tragic that anybody had to undergo what Anne suffered, but it seems especially poignant that such a gifted writer should be killed so young. I think she would have been a great writer, had she lived – and, as it is, she has written an enduring classic, albeit a tragic one.

    • Thank you Simon. Its a very interesting book for so, so many reasons. I think its a book all children should read if they can when they are the same age and Anne. My mother has recently reminded me I did read some of it at school and begged for a diary which I too called Kitty, oh dear, I have no memory of this.

      I think the fact Anne could have been an even more incredible writer when she got older is very poigniant.

  4. Phew! I’m relieved you liked it. It was such a favourite of mine when I was a young girl. And I think Simon T captures it perfectly, saying what a tragic waste of a gifted writer as well as a real person.

  5. Erika W.

    Thank you for such a thoughtful review. I always feel that everybody lucky enough to be adult and alive should take the time to read and write about Anne’s Diary. Even more so, those of us who have had nearer brushes with severe illnesses and possible death that others.
    It is time for me to re-read the Diary also. I avoid it because it is such a painful thing to do.

    • I think anyone regardless of being ill or not should have this book in their lives at some point, not only does it tell of a child who really faced hard times but also reminds us of the innocents killed in WWII.

  6. Louise

    Yep..it’s just me that’s the cold hearted biatch then Simon ha ha!

  7. Glad your fears weren’t realized Simon! I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how the books that had an impact on me as a child would read now, and so it’s great to read the impression of an (almost) 30-year-old on this one.

    • Hahaha thank you for the almost (its two weeks today, eek) there. I wondered if you were going to say that you wanted to read it again as an adult. I am not sure that I would recommend that strangely.

      • I fear you already know me too well–I was totally thinking “maybe I should reread that”! I reread a bunch of books I enjoyed as a kid before giving them to my French cousins for practicing English and most of them didn’t hold up very well for me.

      • Hahaha, only because I know me and have been and tried books I loved as a kid and been left royally miffed when they didn’t live up to what I was hoping.

  8. Interesting, thoughtful post. Thank you. Her diary certainly raises many questions for me. I’ve always thought she intended to become a writer. While this doesn’t mean she intended the diary to be published, I do think she writes as a person who wants to be published would. Sort of as practice, to stretch her skills. I understand that her father did edit the diaries, maybe heavily.

    None of which makes them any less of a masterpiece than they are. I think there is a recent edition that is much closer to what she originally wrote.

    • I am glad people liked it, its a really hard book to write about because you feel like if you critique Anne in anyway, no matter how small, you are almost spoiling her memory.

      I do definitely think that she wanted to be a writer, I think most prolific diary writers, bloggers etc do. The version I had was the definitive edition, I just liked this cover more… oops.

  9. Gosh, it’s a blast from the past. I read it in school and can still remember the impact it made on me at the age of 13.

  10. Geraldine

    Now if you possibly can, visit the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam. We were there on a scorching hot day, with all the windows and doors open, and it was still incredibly stuffy in that hidden annex. It really brings things home to you.

    Been a while since I last re-read her diary, yet another book to add to the must re-read soon pile.

    • I would like to I think Geraldine. The reason I say I think is I am never quite sure about these places as tourist attractions, its the same with the concentration camps etc, the impact must be incredible but something seems a bit wrong about it in my head.

      Interestingly though I am glad I read it, I am not sure I would ever re-read it.

  11. I felt same as you when I read it simon such a harrowing story ,like most books that are eyewitness accounts of this time ,all the best stu

    • Interesting you bring that up Stu as I wonder why this story in particular has become the most famous, which I think it has. Maybe because of her age or the fact she wrote so well?

  12. novelinsights

    OH! You’ve finished it already and I’m only on page 50. Well I’m delighted that you found it so good and you have persuaded me to swap TOWIE for Anne Frank for Sunday night entertainment. You know I had the same feeling of surprise about the annexe – I saw it when i visited Amsterdam and it is fascinating reading the book with the real place in my minds eye – although having said that Anne describes it so well you wouldn’t need to be there to imagine it exactly as it was.

    • Hahahaha, well its not a race now is it Polly ;)

      I am envious of you having visited the actual annexe and then going on to read it as you must have a real feeling as you are reading. I will await your thoughts and discuss further when your review goes up.

  13. Dot

    Your reaction to this book was the same as mine, I think that everybody should read it.

  14. You’ve just made me so glad that I snagged a copy of this book at a library sale a few months ago. I don’t know why I haven’t read it yet, but clearly I should get on with it already. I hope it’s okay that I linked to your review on War Through the Generations.

    • Link away, fine by me. I think sometimes some books simply just don’t get read even though you know most other people might have read them… but that is what makes books and discussing them so interesting.

  15. Pingback: Anne Frank – Diary of a Young Girl | Novel Insights

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