Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Annexed by Sharon Dogar

Publisher: Andersen
Format: Hardback
Published: 2nd September 2010
Number of Pages: 320
Book: Borrowed From the Library
Genre: Historical Fiction, Real-to-Life Fiction, Realistic-Fiction, YA, YA-Adult Crossover
Recommended Age: 12+
Contains: Alcohol, Drug References, Mild Swearing
No Violence, Death 

‘I’m scared.
Scared I’m a coward.
Scared we’re trapped.
Scared we’ll be caught.
Scared that it’s my own ghost standing at the bottom of the stairs, waiting for me…
That this is it – all that’s left of my life.’

Everyone knows about Anne Frank, and her life in the secret annexe – or do they?
Peter van Pels and his family are hidden away with the Franks, 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, to watch through a window whilst others die, and wish that you were fighting?
Anne’s diary ends on August 4 1944, but in this imagined story, Peter’s experience continues beyond the betrayal and into the Nazi death camps.  ‘Is there anybody there?’ he asks.  ‘Is anybody listening?’
We should be.

Everyone knows the story of Anne Frank, the girl forced into hiding during World War Two by the Nazis.  But have you ever thought about what it was like for the others in the Annexe?  Peter van Pels lived there, with the Franks and his parents.  He hates it to begin with, hates everyone – Anne in particular.  But then it all changes, and he falls in love with the girl who annoyed him most.  How long can they stay hidden?  And what happens to Peter afterwards, once they get found?
I remember reading Anne Frank’s diary as a little girl, whilst doing WW2 at school.  The true horror was sort of lost on me then, but when I picked it up again recently, I saw everything.  The death, the pain, the world.  And I also saw her life, her spirit, her essence.  Annexed made it all feel so much more real.  It was an incredible book: sad, beautiful, and horrible, it shows that love grows in the unlikeliest places and that to many bad situations, there can be something worse.  I just sped through it, devouring it.  My mind is still spinning.
Written in a diary-like form of memories, with the currently dying Peter – lying in a concentration camp sick-bay – chipping in now and then, revealing what he now sees as obvious, cherished, stupid.  The writing was amazing, real, so full of life and hope and despair – so raw.
Peter was a wonderful character: so strong and smart.  He may not have said a lot out loud, but inside he told all that was important.  What really got through to me was how scared he was to hope, how terrified he was of being disappointed.  He was scared that he’d die, without doing any of the things he wanted to do.  And all because he was Jewish.  All Peter longed for was no labels, to be seen simply as Peter, not a German, not a Jew, just Peter.
It was really interesting seeing Anne from another point of view.  She was just as full of life, hope and ideas.  Often, she would get so enthusiastic or overwhelmed by one emotion or another that she would shake.  Peter described her as being “lit up”, commenting that he was surprised that she didn’t “burn” due to her all-consuming “passion” for words.
All the other characters from Anne’s diary were precisely the same.  Peter’s father was strong, brave and good-humoured.  His mother was sweet and caring, always helping Peter out.  Anne’s father, Mr Frank, is still one of my favourite historical people.  Strong, quiet, kind-hearted, practical Mr Frank, so full of hope.  Anne’s mother wasn’t in this book as much, but I still could understand why Anne wasn’t overly keen on her at times.  As for Margot, Anne’s sister, she was just as quiet and sweet.  She wanted to be a doctor – though I’m not sure if that is fact or not – and it’s so painful that she was unable to be.  Margot Frank would have made a wonderful doctor…
What was truly special was Anne and Peter’s relationship.  To begin with, Peter couldn’t stand her.  Then, slowly, he fell in love with her passion.  It was just intriguing to see what it was like to be the one being written about, how scared Peter was at saying something stupid that could be published for the world to see once – if – the war finished.  Their talks were also brilliant.  They were made more perfect once I saw how much they meant to Peter once they were over – once he’d lost Anne…
Part two was set in the concentration camp, part one about life in the Annexe.  It was horrible.  I cried.  It all just felt so real, so terrible, like it was happening as I read.  God, the things Peter went through…  It was horrifying, devastating…  I can’t imagine it happening to a flesh-and-blood human, to the real Peter.  But, as Peter said in Annexed: “This is not a story.  This is the truth.  These things really happened.”
This was a wonderful story, so heart-breaking it was honestly untrue.  I knew how the story ended, obviously, yet I still hoped, prayed that the story would miraculously change.  I cried, because that was clearly such a stupid thing to wish for, but I’m not sure if I’ve ever wanted to change an ending as much as I did whilst reading this.  This book will stay with me forever.

Historical-Fact Teaser – May Ruin Book If You Don’t Know…  You Have Been Warned!
Peter van Pels died aged eighteen, after seven months in Auschwitz.  “Are you listening?”  You should be.  We all should.

Star Rating:
4¾ Out of 5

Read this book if you liked:
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Challenges It's Taking Part In:
Happy Reading


Anonymous said...

Cool blog!

Cliona said...

This sounds incredible, even though I haven't read Anne Frank's Diary I think I'll be reading this.

Sherry Soule said...

Thanks for sharing your honest thoughts and opinions about the book. It sounds like a great read!!

Sherry Soule Official Website

Author of the Spellbound Series

TheBookAddictedGirl said...

The Land of the Schmoodles: Thanks! :D
Cliona: Anne Frank's Diary and this are both amazing; very thought-provoking. :)
Sherry: It really is! It was amazing!

Thanks for the comments!