Tag Archives: Historical

Anne Frank – Diary of a Young Girl

5 stars5/5

At almost twice the age Anne was when she write the last lines in her famous diary, I think back and try to remember back to my own inner-monologue as a teenager.

Anne Frank, Diary of a Young Girl Penguin 60th Anniversary Edition

Penguin, 2007, 60th Anniversary Edition, 368 pages - personal library

On one hand I wonder at her expressive writing and then remember that I as a young person I naturally had a certain freedom of expression and might have been as bold, although not as eloquent! I believe it is Anne’s candidness, which is both innocent and knowing that has made Anne’s diary appeal to millions of readers. As a young person you instantly relate, and as a ‘grown-up’ you suddenly remember what it was like to feel all those complicated emotions. Although it cannot be denied that Anne is self aware, there is an unguarded spirit that is not usually found in adult writing. I can see why some people have refused to believe it was real, because she writes so well, but then it is my view that people often do not give young people credit for the ability to question and for their depth of thinking. Perhaps those people have truly forgotten their youthful selves and how serious and important their concerns were to them.

I picked up my copy of The Diary of a Young Girl when I visited Holland last August. In my Religious Education classes at school I learned the contextual significance of Anne’s diary but I didn’t actually read it, and I have to admit that going to visit the Anne Frank Huis wasn’t top of my list of things to do. Then a friend at work warmly recommended I add it to my itinerary on my visit to Amsterdam and I’m glad to say that it was a truly excellent because of how thoughtfully the exhibition was put together. It also made me want to finally read the diary so I picked up a copy in the shop and when Savidge Reads chose it as one of his books to read before his 30th (his recent review is here) I bumped it up my TBR.

Bookcase - Hidden Stairway - Anne Frank

Amazing - the hidden stairway behind the bookcase - and rather appropriate for a book-blog don't you think?

Well by the 5 star rating and my effusive comments you must have guessed already that I found Anne’s diary to be a fantastic read. I was completely drawn into Anne’s world, shared her moments of speculation, boredom, anger, claustrophobia and fear, sheer delight at simple treats and her emotional ups and downs with her Mother (some seriously harsh words!), her much-admired Father, Peter, and the aggravating Mr Dussel and Mrs van Dann. At times Anne is petulant, irritating. At times she is grateful. Throughout she remains honest and her words sound out her feelings as clear as a bell. Curiously, I didn’t feel overly emotional while reading it, but when I read the afterword her story really hit home. I suppose it’s because by the end of the book I felt as if I had come to know Anne, warts and all, and then to read in black and white what I already knew – that she died in a concentration camp after all that time hiding away – I just felt such sadness. What a waste of a life, and how representative of the lives wasted in that war, through hatred and ignorance. Well I’m really getting on my soapbox now, but it is a story which compels you to consider that fact and it is a heavy warning.

The funny thing is that though we know that the story ends sadly and there are  bitter moments of expression – Anne’s ‘violent outbursts on paper’, but the diary is mostly joyful and optimistic – full of beautiful words and thoughts.

“I’m young and strong and living through a big adventure; I’m right in the middle of it and can’t spend all day complaining because it’s impossible to have any fun! I’m blessed with many things: happiness, a cheerful disposition and strength. Every day I feel myself maturing, I feel liberation drawing near, I feel the beauty of nature and  the goodness of the people around me. Every day I think what a fascinating and amusing adventure this is. With all that, why should I despair?”

The Diary of a Young Girl is unmissable piece of History, and more than that it is a great piece of writing.

To sign off, a couple of photographs from my trip to the Netherlands last year which I never got around to posting at the time. [Photo credit goes to the OH as usual]. “Memories mean more to me than dresses” – Anne Frank.

Houses on the Canal, Amsterdam, Netherlands / Holland

Houses on the canal, Amsterdam.

Windmills - Kinderdijk, Netherlands.

Have you read Anne Frank’s diary or studied it at school?

Do you remember how you felt as a teenager (if you’re not any more!)?

Novels in Three Lines, by Félix Fénéon

3.5 stars3.5/5

A gift from my Uncle (thanks Uncle T!), Novels in Three Lines is the perfect book to keep on your bedside table to dip into. No vast swathes of convoluted prose here, only epic stories in miniature penned by a master of brevity.

New York Review Books, 2007 paperback edition, 208 pages - gift

The three-line “novels” contained in this book are snippets of news, known as “fait-divers” in French, which were published in the Paris daily newspaper Le Matin during the year 1906. The collection brings together 1,220 anecdotal scraps which tell of present-day events, dramatic crimes, tragedies, political stories and cover a whole world of perverse goings-on. They are almost haiku-like in the way that they sum-up so briefly, conveying events with pin-point accuracy, each with a sardonic edge.

Novels in Three Lines, is an interesting book to read in the context of the age of Twitter, which as well as being a communication device and a platform for people to broadcast themselves, has become a way of receiving news in the most immediate and abrupt way. In an era where people are overloaded with information, we often look for shorter sharper, quicker ways of absorbing it. Fénéon would have had a million followers on his Twitter account!

“Emilienne Moreau, of Plaine-Saint-Denis, had thrown herself in the drink. Then she leaped four floors. Still alive, but she’ll re-consider.”

Some of the snippets are simply FYIs:

“Some murdered women: Mme Gouriau, Mme Josserand, Mme Thiry, 24, 69, 72, of Coatméal, Saint-Maurice Sorbey (Finistere, Loire, Meuse).”

Others give news of disgruntled workers and outbreaks of disease. There also accidental tragedies which are both ludicrous and pitiable such as the woman who accidentally stabbed herself while balancing on a swing with scissors in her hand. The stories together paint quite a grim portrait of early Twentieth Century France – who on earth said things were safer in the old days!?

Portrait of M. Félix Fénéon in 1890, by Paul Signac (1890) via giganticmag.wordpress.com

This book is a good little gift for someone who likes curiosities and it’s also a clever example of how it is possible to get a message across with just a sentence or two. This review is probably an illustration of how I have yet to learn the art of brevity!

Do you like your information distilled or in detail?