Wednesday, 15 December 2010
Annexed by Sharon Dogar
September 2010, Anderson Press
320 pages, Hardback (mine was the paperback version)
Children's, 12+ teen romance
Summary from Random House Children's Books
Everyone knows about Anne Frank, and her life hidden in the secret annexe – or do they?
Peter van Pels and his family are locked away with the Franks too, and Peter sees it all differently. What is it like to be forced into hiding with Anne Frank, to hate her and then find yourself falling in love with her? To know you’re being written about in her diary, day after day? What’s it like to sit and wait and watch whilst others die, and you wish you were fighting?
Anne’s diary ends on August 4 1944, but Peter’s story takes us on, beyond their betrayal and into the Nazi death camps. He details with accuracy, clarity and compassion, the reality of day to day survival in Auschwitz - and the terrible conclusion.
This book has been shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards 2010. I read The Diary of Anne Frank countless times when I was younger. I leapt at the chance to read this book. Peter never wrote a diary. Sharon has captured his feelings and thoughts on life both in and out of the annex. We will never know if Peter ever felt like this, but I believe that at times he must have been annoyed with Anne. Anne's diary gives a very distinctive opinion on Peter's family, an opinion which is reversed in Peter's side of events. He shows how gentle and kind his mother is, helping him when he has a few secrets to hid. He shows that his inability to speak clearly during some instances was because he didn't know what to say. Mostly he talks about those in the annex, but there is a purely fictional character to show a different side of Peter. Sometimes the events in Annexed happened slightly differently in Anne's diary, but Sharon points this out in concise footnotes.
I hadn't known what to expect when I read this. I thoroughly recommend having a box of tissues beside you. The story alternates (not evenly) Peter in his current state, then Peter remember the past (thankfully in chronological order). He puts up with a lot, and - perhaps inevitably - he grows feelings for Anne. Anne is quite a madam, which annoys Peter. Her father keeps a close eye on her, and hangs around making sure that Peter doesn't do anything he shouldn't.
Anne's story doesn't have a happy ending. The conditions Peter describes of life in the concentration camp was horrifying. I think most readers will need a large box of tissues. Peter's diary includes what it was like when they were all captured in the annex. I was in floods of tears, especially since all those captured acted according to their nature in the last few acts that they did. They endure inhumane treatment on their way to the camps. I still remember when I first learned about the holocaust when I was about 14 years old, because I was in tears at school as I went down the stairs with a teaching assistant. I remember asking her how could people do such a thing to other humans? She didn't really have an answer for me then, and I don't have an answer for myself now. History is still repeated all over the world. Sadly anti-Semitism is still an active movement (for lack of a better word) in the UK, which saddens me.
Despite their differences, both Peter's family and the Franks support each other as much as they can during the transportation process. Inevitably they are separated. There is so much love and compassion in the book that I cried harder (this is an emotional book. I know I cried for quite a few minutes after I'd finished it) I liked how at the end of the book the epilogue says what happened to each person. There is also a page stating the sources used for research.
Everyone who has read Anne Frank's diary should read this fictionalised diary of Peter, for an alternate view of events. If you haven't read Anne's diary, I suggest reading it after Annexed. Hers is a story which will never be forgotten.
I give this book a 9/10.