Book Club #14 – Anne Frank – The Diary of a Young Girl

The decision to choose this book was based on one of our members going to visit the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam in a few weeks time and also taking her 12 year old daughter as well. So we all embarked on something which we had probably read before in our past, except probably our 12 year old, M.

I think this was the first book that no one had finished. I finished it, literally the day before but I admit to skipping bits and flicking forwards and picking entries to read.  We all came to this book as adults and also with a very modern point of view. Which is why I think we all struggled with it and some of us are not attending to finish it.

On the other hand, M reading it for the first time, was enjoying it. She had no preconceived ideas, no expectations and although she had touched on the subject so far in her education they had not certainly read the book. She understood what happened to the Frank family and those that lived in the Secret Annexe and what happened in concentration camps but that did not have the impact that it did on the adults to put her off the book. I think we have been exposed to more visual images of the time and the places to than M which perhaps subconsciously have affected our enjoyment of the book.   I think it is at that point that we all decided and as I mentioned in my own review, that it was a book you should read as a child. And when you think how much space and stuff children have, to see all that be reduced greatly and living in fear of your life made it rather a sobering read and might make some of the youngsters appreciate what they do have – there speaks all our mothers in the group.

I wonder what in 70 years time people would make of children of today’s diary. The language and the short hand would be a challenge for any reading group. And I wonder would it take into account all the stuff these youngsters may have written about their mother. I was particularly interested in the fact that she was rather harsh about her mother and that in subsequent editions of the book more has been added that she wrote about her. It seems her father felt that perhaps she would not have wanted these things to be said about her mother, I think that actually he was protecting his wife’s memories and L says he should be commended for such an action.

I did broach the subject that perhaps it was difficult to read, because it was in the form of a diary entry and some people find these a challenge. But then on the other hand, this was not fictitious this was real life and it was not a very nice life we were reading about. It was the waiting for the inevitable. Perhaps that was what the difficulty was. Then there is the fact that it would have been translation and obviously it is translated into the language and voice of the time, not of 21st Century Britain. L referred back to translating what perhaps her own daughter writes in her diary. C was curious to know whether her daughter, M wrote about, what she had for dinner, what she did etc. It seems that these things are still be written about and make for an outlet for young people (and old alike I am sure).

There are no easy reading group questions for a book such as this, I don’t think and the ones I found are not concentrating on plot, characters and setting. They concentrated on rather more deep and thoughtful questions about neo-Nazi groups, religious intolerance, accountability of what was going on at the time. I felt that it was difficult to lead the group in discussion because of this. One question – “Would our understanding of the Holocaust be quite the same if Anne Frank had not taken a small plaid diary into hiding with her?” did make us talk about what we learnt at school and how this was very much a personal record and it is important to have those to exist along the scholarly tomes where much of our history is learnt.

Upon reflection this is the first non-fiction book that we have read. Discounting Monica Dickens which I think was much fictionalised for it’s audience. It may be a while before we choose something non-fiction again. However it might be worth thinking about choosing a fiction book from our childhood and see how we get on with that.

C and M have promised to take lots of photos and share them with us and it was interesting to always get a child’s point of view when we read these books.

The next get together will be two books – S.J. Watson – Before I Go to Sleep and Grace McCleen – The Land of Decoration. We are certainly getting through a wide variety of books!