Wednesday, 18 September 2013

The diary of a young girl : Book review

So this is my first book review, and since I have never learned how to write one in school (something that needs to be added to our English syllabus), please forgive me if it doesn't follow the standard pattern.

Book review is a misleading title really ; it should be "flow of thought after reading so and so book". But I won't use that as I'm worried no one will pay this post any further attention if that's the title!

So to get down to it, I was browsing my company's library when I found this book in the autobiography section. I thought to myself," Snehal Pradhan, this is one of the classics and deserves the investment of time." A week later I was almost regretting my decision. At first, Anne Frank's entries in her diary seemed childish and trivial(which is understandable ;she was only 13). She began by describing her life as a Jew in Amsterdam, Holland, having fled her native Germany. At this point she and her family had not yet gone into hiding, and her depiction of her life in school and at home, although detailed and accurate, was rather mundane.

Then it did get interesting, as Anne described in great  detail, the circumstances that forced her family into their hiding place : The  Secret Annexe. With the help of an illustration, she described how her family of four, along with another family of three, led a furtive existence in a secret warehouse for the better part of World War II.

Her account chronicled some surprising aspects of a life in hiding. While I  expected that the residents  would be relieved  at being spared the fate of most other Jews, I found that frustration, depression  and boredom were the dominant emotions in their lives. Eating the same food for weeks, telling the same jokes at the table, looking at the same faces day in and day out, all took a toll on their state of mind. Truly, we can only appreciate the value of freedom when it is taken from us.

It was touching  and yet saddening  to see how much Anne relies on her diary, as a friend. Touching, because Anne pours her heart out to her diary( who she had christened "Kitty") like one would to one's best friend, and that is what her diary becomes for her. Saddening, because it points out how lonely she is, despite being surrounded by her immediate family.

Most of all, this book grew on me as I kept reading it. I mean really grew on me. As Anne grows, I could see that she really has a talent for writing, and her entries in the last one third of the book are a treat to read, displaying a maturity seldom seen in adults, let alone adolescents. She painted clear pictures of her  interpersonal relationships within the Annexe; from her own strained relationship with her mother, to her feelings of attachment and affection for her fellow residents. She never held back while accounting the faults of people around her, but showed the same brutal honesty while looking at herself as well. Even surrounded by the clouds of war, she could still find peace of mind and beauty in a brief moment of contact with nature.

I was amazed by the strength of character and deep self-knowledge the fifteen-year-old Anne had. She was very clear about who she was, all the good and bad included, but would not resign herself to being just that and tried to change herself where she saw fit. She had her own opinions, and was not afraid of expressing them. She had an independent identity, and dreams and hopes too. If Anne had survived the war, I'm sure she would have become a person who strongly influenced her peers. The more I read, the more attached I got to Anne, which gave me a sense of foreboding, as I knew how her story ended, and dreaded reaching the page which would contain her last entries.

Anne's account of her life in such closed quarters made one fact clear to me :being cooped up is a sure way to expose our true character, whether we like it or not. It's like living in a circular room with no corners, nowhere to hide our true selves. What I admire most about Anne, is that she made no attempt to hide her inner nature behind a facade of civility or falsehood. It's probably partly due to the fact that she was a child and had not gained the inhibitions that come with age, but mostly it's because she isn't the type to hide in the first place. And that's why I will always look up to Anne Frank. Her diary will command a permanent place on my bookshelf, so I can revisit her memories for inspiration whenever I may feel the need for it.