Monday, December 6, 2010

Annexed, by Sharon Dogar- Review

Whether you've read it or not, most everyone knows the story of Anne Frank and her diary.  A story of such un-surpassable sadness and joy at the same time, Anne's diary has taught people the world over to appreciate their life on this earth in a more tangible way than they might otherwise have done.

Taking that into consideration, Sharon Dogar has done a very brave thing, she's written a fictional telling from one of the other annex occupants perspective- Peter.  Such a daring move I'm surprised she was willing to give it a go.  But she did, and amazingly I think she's enriched the telling of this famed story of survival.

As you likely already know, there were 7 occupants hiding in the annex with Anne Frank. Otto Frank, Anne's father, Edith Frank, Anne's mother, Margot Frank, Anne's sister, Hermann Van Pels, Auguste Van Pels, and Peter Van Pels, the family of Anne's father acquaintance from work and Fritz Pfeffer, a doctor.  Peter, a couple years older than Anne, and of a completely different disposition makes for a great counter point in the story of their hiding. 

Although pure fiction (there is little known about Peter outside of Anne's opinions), Sharon relied on Anne's diary as well as survivors stories to tell Peter's journey both in his time in the annex and then through various concentration camps with Otto, Fritz and his father Hermann.

A heartbreaking story, Annexed made me cry on several occasions, but more than anything I found it thought provoking and, as any story of hardship does- made me appreciate the simple things in life that are always at risk of being taken for granted.  Walking down the street and knowing I can do so freely and safely, enjoying the sunlight through my windows, even enjoying a good meal.

The thing I appreciated the most from this engaging story though, was how it brought the whole subject to the forefront of my mind again.  It has been many, many years since I read The Diary of Anne Frank,  but Annexed has me reading it all over again.  It also has me thinking about things that never occurred to me when I was 9 or 10 and reading it the first time.  Like how my Oma, so close in age to Anne, was in Amsterdam herself, I wonder how close by?  Or how schoolmates of mine, at the tender age of 13 or 14 participated in the March of the living where participants march silently from Auschwitz to Birkenau, places I can't imagine visiting even as an adult now. 

Among other tragedies throughout history the holocaust is one of those things that should never be forgotten lest it happen again, and I am thrilled Sharon has written a book that can bring this to the forefront for a new generation of readers.

Annexed, by Sharon Dogar
Published by Houghton Mifflin, October 2010

Generously provided to me by Houghton Mifflin Canada.

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