Translated by Susan Massotty and audiobook narrated by Helena Bonham Carter.
This will hardly be a proper review because how can someone review the thoughts and musings of a teenage girl living under the Nazi regime of World War II? Instead, it’s going to be more about what this book made me feel and how it surprised me.
Perhaps because it’s because it was written over 80 years ago, I thought it would be hard to read due to the language or the subject matter – a misconception that seems to be proven wrong repeatedly anytime I try a “classic”. I listened to the audiobook and that was a great way to take it in as it was if Anne was speaking directly to me, but I think even if I’d read a physical copy, it would’ve been easy to read and get engrossed in it.
Naturally Anne writes about the day-to-day life of living in hiding with seven other people, her parents and older sister, another family and a dentist, and all the highs and lows of that from the camaraderie to the arguments when living in such close quarters with no chance to escape. There’s a lot of talk about rationing food, being terrified when there’s unexpected visitors to the house below them, and the people who helped hide and feed them. There’s also her and the other’s thoughts on the War, how the Allies are doing, what’s happening to their fellow Jews, and when it will all be over.
The thing that surprised me the most (though in hindsight it really shouldn’t have) was how so much of Anne’s diary was relatable teen girl angst and musings. So much of it was how she felt about the people she was living with, how she loved her father wholeheartedly but didn’t understand or get on with her mother, how she had all these ideas and feelings about herself but no one seemed to see that side of her or understand what she meant when she did try and express herself.
There are her thoughts about girls and boys and desire and over the course of the entries she can be so contrary about different things or people depending on her mood or what happened that day which is very true to life. One thing that made me smile was her fascination/obsession of Greek and Roman mythology – that is such a teenage (girl) thing, being obsessed with one aspect of history, whether it’s a specific event or a mythology or time period. There’s something almost reassuring that decades ago teens were fascinated by the same stuff teens are often fascinated by today – even while living through such horrors.
It’s the juxtaposition of the relatable teen thoughts and feelings with the incredible hardship Anne is going through that makes her writings so effective and important. So often with any event in the past, the people involved become just names or statistics. Anne Frank’s diary brings the events and statistics into life in an unflinching way, and allows readers to experience that fear and dread while still having the everyday experiences of birthdays and holidays, though gifts of jam and butter are held to the highest regard in this scenario.
It is such an important work, and one that is accessible and thought-provoking. While naturally Anne was all too aware of the threat hanging over her and the others and writes about it often, it’s knowing the fate of Anne and the people she’s with that makes reading her diary give you such a sense of foreboding – especially as the years past and the moments when Anne experiences some joy.