Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Annexed by Sharon Doger Review

I look out the window into the street . . . I'm meant to be at Mr. Frank's workplace in a few hours. We're arriving separately, all of us. We'll walk into the building just like it was any other visit -- only this time we'll never walk out again.

What was it like hiding in the Annex with Anne Frank? To be with Anne every day while she wrote so passionately in her diary? To be in a secret world within a world at war -- alive on the inside, everything dying on the outside.

Peter Van Pels and his family have lost their country, their home, and their freedom, and now they are fighting desperately to remain alive.

Look through Peter's eyes.

He has a story to tell, too.

Are you listening?

My Take: This is the fictional story of the non-fictional Peter.  Taking Anne's experiences and feelings she attributes to Peter, the author has written from his standpoint.  How does he feel about being a boy, turning into a man trapped with two teenage girls?  He is a boy/man of few words but he is not stupid.  He thinks, he feels, he experiences. 

I am one of the very few who has not read The Diary of Anne Frank. I have read Anne Frank Remembered by Miep Gies, the woman who helped hide the Franks and Van Pels then hid her diary after their capture.  I have been fascinated by Anne Frank and used to stare at her picture when I was young teenager and wonder how much we had in common. I have been to the Annex in Holland and walked the floors where Anne Frank lived, dreamed, and wrote. I have read many books about Anne Frank and the Holocaust but I can't quite bear to know Anne Frank then have her suffer the indignities of the Holocaust and know she died days within liberation.

Peter is a real person who experienced love and kisses with Anne Frank, until she tired of him.  She was dramatic and riddled with angst, like many girls her age.  To see her through Peter's eyes is to experience her anew.  To assign feelings to Peter is to experience him anew.  I enjoyed the interpretation given by the author.  I enjoyed another aspect of Peter than simply that of Anne, although it is through her diary we get to know Peter. 

Anne's diary survives the Holocaust.  But so does Otto Frank, Anne's father.  His writings also describe Peter and the interactions he had with him.  Otto accompanies Peter to Auschwitz.  Together they survive until Peter is transferred to another camp.  Otto was with Peter when Peter's father disappeared. 

Although the story of Peter in the Annex is compelling, it is the style of the author's writing that makes the story more real.  The sentence structure is that of a boy who is not a writer but a thinker.  Incomplete sentences that lack either noun or verb.  Like a punctuation mark. 

The last bit of the book is most poignant and painful.  Peter lays dying in the camp "hospital" and recalls his life starting with the first day of living in the Annex.  He hated it.  He was depressed and wanted to sleep all the time.  The grown-ups gave everybody chores.  There was grumbling.  They didn't always get along.  Otto had concerns regarding Margot's tender feelings with Anne and Peter growing close.  Peter recalls each of these experiences in poignant detail.

Yet, like the real experience, they are all captured and taken to camps.  It is here that Peter recalls the horrors he has seen, real or not to him, these things did happen.  He recalls the last time he sees Otto Frank.  The last few pages read like beautifully written poetry.  It hurts.

Like Schindler's list and Alicia, I can't read it again but I loved it. 
4 hearts


Elizabeth said...

An interesting book. Thanks for the review.

Anonymous said...

sounds good, thanks! for sharing.

CountessLaurie said...

Too real and painful for me but you gave it four hearts. I will consider it.