The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition by Anne Frank
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I’m really torn on this one. On the one hand, the writing is absolutely amazing for a 13 to 15-year-old girl. Her vocabulary, syntax, and insight is incredible. Most modern American teenagers would be put to shame by Anne’s ability.
On the other hand, as a 47-year-old male reader, most of Anne’s diary is pretty boring. She spends a good deal of words whining about her mother, then mooning over Peter, the only teenage boy sharing the annex with the hiding Jews. It’s a diary. There’s no narrative, no plot, and Anne is maybe the ultimate unreliable narrator since none of the other characters get a voice with which to defend themselves against her characterization of them. In many ways, this reads like a bad reality TV show.
But on the other hand, only the most naive of readers would open this book without knowing how it ends, so you spend the entire 340 pages waiting for the inevitable. And, even knowing it’s coming, it is so inconceivably evil when it does come that anyone with a conscience will be dumbfounded.
How could this bright, articulate young woman come to such a tragic end? What kind of monsters could have done this to her and her extended family? To all the Jewish people who suffered and died?
Anne’s whining, her infatuation, and more than anything, her dreams of becoming a journalist and famous writer are the self-indulgent ramblings of a teenage girl, but when you get to the end and realize that all of that was stripped away and destroyed, starved and finally thrown into a mass grave simply because of her ethnicity, the whole suddenly seems so much more than the individual parts.
Finally, I just can’t imagine the emotions her father must have dealt with as the only survivor of the annex and the horrors that came after. Then to read Anne’s journals, what she said about her mother and even about him, and to know she was gone, that he could never change what she thought of him … That would be a difficult life to lead.
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