I have finally, at the age of 33, gotten around to reading Anne Frank's diary. There is little point in adding another glowing review. Everything has been said. But after reading some of the negative reviews, I feel compelled to respond. It seems there are two primary criticisms (Three if you count the ridiculous idea that the diary is a forgery, which I won't dignify). The first is that Anne doesn't talk a lot about the war or the holocaust. To this, I can only say, that's all for the better. She was a thirteen year girl living in total isolation from the rest of the world. She really had no special expertise or light to shed on these subjects. There are many excellent history books on both of these subjects. The second criticism is simply that the book is boring. She talks too much about her day to day life, her thoughts, her feelings, and so on. To this I can only say, what part of "Diary of a Young Girl" is ambiguous? The annex was her entire world. What do you expect her to write about?
What a few don't seem to understand is that this is not a "book about World War II", or even about the holocaust. If that is what she had written about, the diary wouldn't even be a footnote in history. This is the story of one young girl, in her own voice, trying to figure out what it means to live, to grow, and to be human in the most depraved and inhumane circumstances. She wrote about her hopes, her dreams, her fears, and occasionally about peeling potatoes. But the thing that some people don't see is that even when writing about the most mundane topics, she was actually writing about people, about how they endure and falter, about how they come together and how they fall apart. And despite the enormous injustice she endured, she always made the case for optimism, for hope in humanity, and for love of life. I don't know that I can agree with her, having adopted a more cynical outlook, but that just increases my admiration for her and my shame in myself for not living the gift of live to the fullest.
The other thing that stands out is the maturity of the writing. After reading just the first entry, I was blown away by the eloquence and clarity of Anne's writing. I could hardly believe that I was reading the prose of a 13 year old girl. She does write a lot about the trials and tribulations of being a teenage girl, but the voice of the writing does not feel childish at all, except perhaps in its optimism. The world lost a great talent and a brilliant soul to those murderous barbarians.
This is a difficult book to digest, and two days after finishing, I'm still haunted by it. Anne's optimism, faith, and courage inspired me throughout, but made the knowledge of what would come at the end all the more a bitter pill to swallow. All that we can do is to honor her by making sure her story and the story of millions of holocaust victims are never forgotten and never happen again. So far, we're not doing so well with that.
And there, I've done it. I've written a review. I didn't intend to, but I did. So go out and read it, if you haven't.