The Diary of a Young Girl | book review

*Certain books are easier to review differently than in my usual format — this is one of them.

Some days, I think my life is really hard. Other days, I’m sitting on my bed, twenty years old, going to college studying what I love best, having just eaten a meal, and am reading Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl — during these times, I realize I don’t really have it quite so bad. Anne Frank never made it to 20, and she sure as hell didn’t have the luxuries I do right now. Though I believe pain, stress, sadness, and strife are relative and every human being experiences these things and playing the “who has it worse” game is pointless, reading Anne’s diary gives me a lot of perspective.

“Dearest Kitty”…

The year is 1942 and Anne Frank’s entire world is suddenly flipped upside down. For a little over two years, Anne keeps a diary of her life as she lives in hiding from the Nazis, with seven other people, in what she calls The Secret Annex. Over the course of these two years, Anne grows not only physically but mentally as well. In two years, she experiences things many of us hope we never will, and she grows intellectually in ways we can only hope to do. From age thirteen to fifteen, Anne comes of age just like we all do, and documents  it all as a Jew in hiding during World War II.

“Writing in a diary is a really strange experience for someone like me. Not only because I’ve never written anything before, but also because it seems to me that later on neither I nor anyone else will be interested in the musings of a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl.”

The diary is comprised of entries from 1942 to 1944 and has been edited at least once or twice by Anne herself before being arrested, and by her father, Otto, after the war. This definitive edition includes Anne’s thoughts on sexuality and her curiosity of it all, whereas previous versions did not due to the time they were published. It is said that Otto may have removed pages further revealing Anne and her sexuality, but that is forever unknown.

The diary, which Anne calls “Kitty,” details everything from politics to boys — the typical fluttering of a teenage girl’s mind. Anne gives a lot of backstory about herself, her friends, and her family throughout the diary and includes explicit detail of her hiding spot, The Secret Annex. It is made clear that Anne intended to be a writer one day, perhaps a journalist, and hoped to publish her diary after the war, which is why she herself edited its contents as she grew older.

I found it very endearing that the first 3/4 of the novel are typical Anne, and then all of a sudden she’s boy crazy until almost the end. Though Anne was very independent and mature, she was locked up in an attic for two years with only one male close to her own age — what else was she going to think about?

“Together we could banish our loneliness, yours and mine!”

All teenage girls go through that stage. And Anne is definitely a typical teenage girl put into very atypical situations. I can’t even imagine the hardships she endured. The secrecy, the disgusting and limited meals, the bombings, the fear, the anger, the sadness… I read it and though I can sympathize, I will never be able to understand.

I love Anne and how complex she was. You delve deep into her psyche while reading her diary and you become one with her. Every day I felt like I was standing there next to Anne while she peeled potatoes or kissed Peter’s cheek or argued with her mother… The mother part I can really relate to. After what happened with my own mom almost a year ago, I truly understand Anne’s struggle to get close to her mother.

“I’m the opposite of Mother, so of course we clash. I don’t mean to judge her; I don’t have that right. I’m simply looking at her as a mother. She’s not a mother to me–I have to mother myself. … I have no choice, because I can picture what a mother and a wife should be and can’t seem to find anything of the sort in the woman I’m supposed to call ‘Mother.'”

I related to this poor girl on so many levels, and yet my life is still infinitely easier than hers ever was. She aged many years during those two short years in the Annex. Though she had her off days, she largely stayed optimistic through it all. It’s amazing to see this girl’s transformation, the changing of her thoughts and actions, the deep understanding and appreciation of life she held. I’m in awe. I can’t believe I’d never read this before, but I’m glad I did.

Every time she spoke of her future, her life after the war, I almost cried. It’s not just a story — it was real life. This isn’t a dystopian novel, though it should be…the fact that this actually happened is revolting and horribly sad. Anne was only fifteen when she died, but she understood and loved life a lot more than I do. Though this book is heartbreaking, it is at the same time uplifting and magical. Anne’s spirit, though she lived in the worst of times, is enough to lift anyone’s. Everyone, at some point in their lives, needs to read this at least once. I hope to read it again.

Anne is so wise and beyond her years. She teaches us life lessons and talks about feministic ideas and questions herself and the world and I think she was absolutely brilliant.

“What’s done can’t be undone, but at least you can keep it from happening again.”

She would have been an amazing writer, I know it.

“An empty day, though clear and bright
Is just as dark as any night.”

I’m sorry this is so scrambled and messy — it’s after midnight and it’s been a long, hard week. And the Afterword of this book just made it worse — to read how everyone in the Annex was arrested and exactly how they died (except for Otto). It made me cry. I’m going to try to live like Anne did. The war didn’t crush her spirit — it uplifted it.

“My advice is: ‘Go outside, to the country, enjoy the sun and all nature has to offer. Go outside and try to recapture the happiness within yourself; think of all the beauty in yourself and in everything around you and be happy.'”

Favorite Quote(s)

“Paper has more patience than people.”

“I’ve learned one thing: you only really get to know a person after a fight. Only then can you judge their true character!”

“This week I’ve been reading a lot and doing little work. That’s the way things ought to be. That’s surely the road to success.”

“Anyone who’s so petty and pedantic at the age of fifty-four was born that way and is never going to change.”

“There’s a destructive urge in people, the urge to rage, murder and kill. And until all of humanity, without exception, undergoes a metamorphosis, wars will continue to be waged, and everything that has been carefully built up, cultivated and grown will be cut down and destroyed, only to start all over again!”

“‘Deep down, the young are lonelier than the old.’ I read this in a book somewhere and it’s stuck in my head. As far as I can tell, it’s true.”

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