Anne Frank’s World Re-Visited
In Amsterdam in the middle of World War II, two Jewish families–the Franks and the Van Pels–hide away in an annex above an office, praying for survival and the downfall of the Nazis. In Annexed, Dogar has created her vision of what it was like in the annex with Anne Frank from Peter van Pels’ point of view. To take a time and character so closely scrutinized by the world and so well documented–by the world-renowned diary of Anne Frank–is a challenge, to say the least, but Dogar has done a good job at not over-sensationalizing the material. She also manages to stay true to what she believes might have gone through the mind of a teenage boy in a time of personal and world-wide crisis. Following Peter from the morning before seclusion to his death (potentially, according to records, in a concentration camp sick bay), readers see the hope and the despair, two sides of many moments he experienced as his memories are shared in the book.
Full of hate and fear, love, shame, sexual longing, wavering faith, and all the “why” questions one could ponder, Peter examines life both inside and outside the walls of the annex and tries to make sense of it all, all the while experiencing the morphing relationships inside the hideout as tensions flow between the families and genders. Why, Peter asks, must I hide instead of fight? Why do we have to be the chosen people? Why does being Jewish have to define everything about me? Will I ever experience life beyond this point?
Dogar’s writing is powerful and conveys life in the annex as it probably was: stifling, claustrophobic, lacking in privacy, and frustrating while at times also joyful, grateful, and full of the knowledge that beauty truly is in the small, unnoticed things. As Dogar examines the emotions Peter, the lone adolescent male, might have felt as he matured, readers also get a sense of the other characters through Peter’s descriptions of them. And unlike other narratives, Dogar follows Peter and imagines–with the aid of research–what he must have gone through after capture, both in Auschwitz and on the death march that followed in his final days.
I highly recommend this, whether you’re a fan of literary fiction, historical fiction, coming-of-age stories, or just about any other type. It’s not a light story, as the premise indicates, but it’s worth the journey. This as Dogar’s first historical fiction, and she worked hard to get the research right (though she admits in the back to altering minor timeline events for continuity’s sake). The whole product is well done, emotional, and absolutely worth the read.
Age 13+ (some mature content)
Copyright October 2010
Available as an eBook
Image from www.goodreads.com
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