Today’s review is a bit of a throwback. I read The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank back in January of this year, but since I’m lazy, you’re finally hearing about it now.
I actually felt like I didn’t get as much out of this one as I should have. I felt like it should have resonated with me deeper; stirred me more. It didn’t.
That’s not to say, though, that it didn’t impact me or it didn’t sober me. There is a lot of responsibility to never let something like the Holocaust ever happen again; even a semblance of it. And I don’t take that lightly.
I just didn’t feel as impacted by The Diary of a Young Girl as much as I had expected I would be. And that’s fine. I was still touched, and it was still worth reading. Even if it didn’t feel like it at times.
Confused? I am too.
Let me try to clear my thoughts up for you in a proper review.
★ ★ ★ ★
Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank’s remarkable diary has since become a world classic—a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit.
In 1942, with Nazis occupying Holland, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl and her family fled their home in Amsterdam and went into hiding. For the next two years, until their whereabouts were betrayed to the Gestapo, they and another family lived cloistered in the “Secret Annexe” of an old office building. Cut off from the outside world, they faced hunger, boredom, the constant cruelties of living in confined quarters, and the ever-present threat of discovery and death.
In her diary Anne Frank recorded vivid impressions of her experiences during this period. By turns thoughtful, moving, and amusing, her account offers a fascinating commentary on human courage and frailty and a compelling self-portrait of a sensitive and spirited young woman whose promise was tragically cut short.
“Paper is more patient than man.”
So wrote Anne Frank in the diary that would one day become famous the world over. She wouldn’t live to see it, but her dream to become a famous writer came true.
Her diary itself was an impressive accomplishment. It provided a beautiful, bare, heart-rending look at life spent in hiding, where she and her family—along with some friends in the same circumstances—would live for over twenty months cramped in the “Secret Annexe” of an office building, in the constant pain of hunger, confinement, boredom, and the ever-present terror of being found out.
She writes openly about her experiences, and is by turns amusing, intelligent, and impressively insightful. Her observations on the frailty of the human spirit alone are striking in their accuracy and simplicity. In this, she paints a vivid, compelling self-portrait, sparkling with life and ambition, and it was heartbreaking to see such potential cut short.
The Diary of a Young Girl proves that it merits the historical significance it’s garnered. But there’s more to it than even that.
For now, though, let’s talk about Anne.
“It’s an odd idea for someone like me to keep a diary; not only because I have never done so before, but because it seems to me that neither I—nor for that matter anyone else—will be interested in the unbosomings of a thirteen-year-old school girl.”
She couldn’t have been more wrong.
In her diary, Anne consistently evaluates herself, bravely pouring out her thoughts and baring her flaws. She shows evidence of a very brave, sensitive heart, with a noble, idealistic mind. She writes:
“In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.”
That kind of tenacity and optimism is inspiring, and she displays it so often.
“I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.”
To stop there, though, would give an inaccurate portrayal of Anne. Her observations and declarations, however insightful, are only one side of her. It would be absurd to assume that she could be impervious to the peevishness and pettiness that tests us all, as she certainly wasn’t. It’s expected, her occasional triviality; especially considering her circumstances: hiding for more than twenty months in close quarters with the same company and the same maddening restrictions, which would be hard to bear for anyone. So her peevishness, when she did give in to it, and her complaints, when she did have them, were completely understandable, but it doesn’t mean they weren’t there. It’s admirable, though, to see that whenever she started to complain, she would always stopped herself with gratitude; she would find reasons to be thankful.
“Chin up, stick it out, better times will come.”
Unfortunately, though, in spite of all the good sides of The Diary of a Young Girl, I do have a problem with it. It’s a diary.
I know, but bear with me.
Anne wrote her diary with no clear vision in mind. No one does. She wrote about everything, and that’s okay, but it wasn’t the easiest or most captivating read. At times I was just bored, and it would take effort to continue. But it was always worthwhile when I did. Perhaps that’s why it didn’t resonate with me as much as I thought it would or even should. Perhaps I came into it with the wrong expectations. Perhaps I forgot what the word “diary” means. In any case, that’s why I docked a star from such a revered classic like The Diary of a Young Girl in my rating. And in all honesty, the only reason why it didn’t get two stars docked is because of it’s immense historical significance.
The only other downside to The Diary of a Young Girl is the almost excessive honesty of Anne Frank. She relates everything about the process of growing up for a young woman, and it was honestly uncomfortable for me to read. Very uncomfortable. And again, that’s the diary part of the book coming to haunt me some more.
Misconceptions are wonderful things, aren’t they?
To conclude, reading the diary of Anne Frank was a unique experience. In no more than a couple hundred pages, I felt like I had found—and lost—a dear friend. The way Anne opened herself up so completely, so honestly, felt almost too intimate to intrude in on by reading.
While I won’t be revisiting The Diary of a Young Girl, I am very, very glad to have read it. It was sobering and impactful, and worth every minute I spent on it, even if it wasn’t an extremely pleasant experience. It was an honor to get such an unfiltered glimpse at the Anne’s life, and what life was like in general for Jews in hiding. To see the panic, the desperation, the destruction it inflicted, not to mention the gross injustice of it all—reminds us to never take our freedom for granted, and to do everything we can to keep such an evil from repeating itself.
“I feel wicked sleeping in a warm bed, while my dearest friends have been knocked down or have fallen into a gutter somewhere out in the cold night. I get frightened when I think of close friends who have now been delivered into the hands of the cruelest brutes that walk the earth. And all because they are Jews!”
Is it okay for me to read?
Language • • • • •
Anne relates conversations verbatim, a few of which include mild profanities.
Violence • • • • •
There are some brief descriptions of the war effort and treatment of the Jews, but it stays relatively light.
Sensuality • • • • •
Anne describes feminine functions with honesty, which was uncomfortable to say the least.
Substances • • • • •
Beer other and alcoholic beverages are mentioned, and adult characters drink on occasion.
For more about my content ratings and what they mean, click here.