*All reviews I write are spoiler free*
This book goes against everything I’ve known as a reader.
A bit dramatic, yes. But let me explain.
Every single time I’ve tried reading non-fiction, I’ve never been able to finish the book. I just couldn’t get into non-fiction. I mean, it’s even in the blog name. A frolic through fiction. No mention of non-fiction here, no thank you.
Because I discovered the diary of Anne Frank, and finally…finally I found a non-fiction book I actually enjoyed.
So let’s talk about The Diary of a Young Girl!
Title: The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition
Author: Anne Frank – edited by Otto Frank and Mirjam Pressler
Publisher: Viking [Penguin Books Ltd]
Genre: Non Fiction, Historical, Classic
Series status: Standalone
Number of pages: 339
Well, because this is a diary rather than a fictional novel, the synopsis is a bit…different. There’s a really short version on Goodreads, but I think the foreword in the beginning of this book gives a bit more insight, so I’ll leave both below.
For her thirteenth birthday Anne Frank received a diary as a present from her father. She kept it from 12 June 1942 to 1 August 1944. In this diary, which she addressed to an imaginary friend called Kitty, Anne wrote about her life – first in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam and then, when the Nazi persecution of Jews forced her family into hiding, in the sealed-off back rooms of an Amsterdam office building, which they referred to as the ‘Secret Annexe’. Anne had always dreamed of being a writer and hoped one day to publish her diary.
Foreword from inside the book, which is also found on the back cover:
Anne Frank kept a diary from 12 June 1942 to 1st August 1944. Initially, she wrote it strictly to herself. Then, one day in 1944, Gerrit Bolkestein, a member of the Dutch government in exile, announced in a radio broadcast from London that after the war he hoped to collect eyewitness accounts of the suffering of the Dutch people under German occupation, which could be made available to the public. As an example, he specifically mentioned letters and diaries.
Impressed by this speech, Anne Frank decided that when the war was over she would publish a book based on her diary. She began rewriting and editing her diary, improving on the text, omitting passages she didn’t think were interesting enough and adding others from memory. At the same time, she kept up her original diary. In the scholarly work The Diary of Anne Frank: The Critical Edition, Anne’s first unedited diary is referred to as version A, to distiguish from her second, edited diary, which is known as verison B…
After long deliberation, Otto Frank decided to fulfill his daughter’s wish and publish her diary. He selected material from version A and B, editing them into a shorter version later referred to as version C. Readers all over the world known this as The Diary of a Young Girl…
The Anne Frank foundation in Basle (Switzerland), which as Otto Frank’s sole heir had inherited his daughter’s copyrights, decided to have a new, expanded edition of the diary published for general readers. This new edition in no way affects the integrity of the old one…Otto Frank’s original selection has now been supplemented with passages from Anne’s A and B versions. Mirjam Pressler’s definitive edition, approved by the Anne Frank-Fonds, contains approximately 30 percent more material and is intended to give the reader more insight into the world of Anne Frank.
I feel like this book has changed me somehow.
Even though this is the first non-fiction book I’ve actually enjoyed enough to finish, I somehow knew I’d love this book. I adore history. One of my favourite genres is historical fiction, though I can’t say I’ve read much of it yet. I’m always eager to learn more about history, and the stories I hear really stay with me. So this fascination was sure to set me up for a good read.
Right from the start I appreciated how honest Anne Frank was as a person. Partially because of her young age, partially because it was just her personality, not that much from this book is sugar coated in way of details. Sure, she’s hidden away and doesn’t see the brunt of the war while writing her diary, but even from the events that do happen to her and her family, you can tell just how much the war had affected everyone.
I’m pretty sure most people have at least heard the basis of Anne Frank’s story. Before starting this book, I knew that she and her family had hidden in an “attic” for ages during the war. And it didn’t end well. That’s all I knew. And really, that’s all most people know, unless they read up on the story. So seeing how much more complicated their hiding was, I couldn’t quite believe it. And yet…I feel like that’s why this book affected me so much.
Before reading this book, everything I had ever heard from history had been taught to me during history lessons, through my own research, or through a fictional character. So to read this book and know that once upon a time, this actually DID happen? To real people? That…really struck a chord with me.
Especially when I saw the photographs of everyone mentioned.
Hearing about war from the voice of a thirteen year old was really hard-hitting. To see someone so young understand the injustice of it all, and to see her constantly trying to keep her spirits high through it all – well, it can be difficult to read. And yet, I felt like I owed it to her to read her story.
“I’ve found that there is always some beauty left — in nature, sunshine, freedom, in yourself; these can all help you.”
She wanted to be a writer. She wanted her stories, her “fairy tales” shared. She wanted to leave her mark on the world. And even though it’s not how she hoped…she did ultimately achieve all those things. And for me, I hate hate hate the fact that she didn’t get to see how much she’d achieve.
When this diary ends, and you’re left with the small update on what happened to everyone…that’s probably the hardest part to read. To go through this journey with them all, and to see how it all turned out – whether you liked them or not, it’s hard to miss that sinking feeling in your stomach. To get so close and yet so far. To know what Anne had hoped for, and to see how that turned out. It was just a very painful reminder that all those things I learnt in my history lessons happened to real people. Thousands upon thousands of people suffered during the war, and we can only begin to imagine the scale of it.
Books like this should be read by everyone.
I know it might be uncomfortable to read. But it happened. To go through that tension, hope, fear, constant sense of waiting, even just through the words on a page while you sit safely tucked away at home – it made this book a really powerful story. And this gave me so much more understanding than I had previously…I don’t think I’ll ever forget this story.
I never thought I’d feel this heavy-hearted for a girl who died so long ago.
Rated 4.5/5 stars!
[Available in Paperback, Library Binding, and Kindle Edition]
PS. The paperback is actually cheaper than the kindle edition, oddly! Though I don’t read from screens so that might not be as odd as I think it is…
Share your thoughts!
Have you read this book? What did you think?
Have you visited the secret annexe in Amsterdam? If you have, what was it like? (I hope to visit one day!)
Are there any non-fiction historical books you’d recommend, based on this one?
Or are there any historical fiction books you’d recommend?
If you haven’t read this book, do you want to?
Let me know in the comments!
Until next time…