Friday, 21 January 2011

Book Review: Annexed by Sharon Dogar

Description (taken from the inside book jacket) :

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? And, 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.

My review and thoughts

I love Anne Frank and I've read her diary twice now but not since two years ago and also done a very long school project on her life. So, the premise of Annexed really interested me since I've always wondered what Peter may have felt during the time in the annexe and his feelings towards Anne.

Sharon Dogar has kept everything just as described in Anne's diary but explored Peter's feelings sensitively. Through her writing we are let into Peter's intimate thoughts and feelings that we have no proof existed but it is done respectfully.  The writing isn't complicated  but clear and filled with emotion that seems so plausible to the realities of Peter's thoughts.  It isn't only Peter's feelings about being shut away from the world in the annexe and his frustration that are captured but also the normal thoughts and struggles of a typical teenage boy from doubts about who he is and his self image to worries about girls. It is very hard for teenagers to go through these feelings and stages in a normal situation but to be stuck in one place with the same people during key years of growing up is just so hard to imagine but this is portrayed well.

Despite some controversy about the 'sexulisation' of Anne and Peter's relationship, I think the scenes where they are together are the honest portrayal of how the author imagines they happen.  For me, there was too much focus on Peter's lust, which I felt was very unnecessary and spoiled the other mix of other poignant emotions. I think more emphasis on his fears and other aspects of life in hiding would have made a better impression on me.

The last third of the book, where Peter is fighting for his life in a concentration camp is very harrowing. The fact that Anne, Peter and their family were on the last train to Auschwitz from Holland is just so tragic. After the build up of finding out what Peter hopes and longs for, the tragedy of his situation is just so moving. It is a real reminder of the horrific evils of the Holocaust and how it is not just a historical  event but something that happened to real people and destroyed lives.

I thought that the almost poetic way that the book was told with numerous flash forwards to his time in the concentration camp (or rather the whole novel is a flash back and those are flash forwards) was very effective and original.

Verdict: Annexed is a very interesting and thoughts provoking book that made me want to read Anne's diary again. It is really worth reading but one I couldn't see myself reading it again. I would recommend that people read Annexed only if they have read Anne Frank's diary before as otherwise it may be difficult to understand about the other occupants of the Annexe as they are not really introduced.


  1. The Diary of Anne Frank is such a powerful read, and I'm glad to see that Annexed carries on the tradition. Great review - I'm adding this to my list :)

  2. I have the diary of Anne Frank and can't wait to read it! I'm kind of apprehensive for some reason. I find the whole holocust thing kind of disturbing. And of course it was. It's sometimes just quite hard to get to grips with what those poor people really went through...
    Amazing review as usual.
    I think by the sounds of it, perhaps there shouldit should of just been left with the original, instead of introducing companion type books.

  3. @ Melissa- I hope you get round to reading it soon- I'm glad I helped you :)

    @Liddy- Awww thanks! You should definitely go ahead and read Anne's diary as soon as you can. It's more tragic than disturbing because it stops when they are found. Yes, many other people think that two and I'm kind of on the shelf about.

  4. I have yet to read this one or the Diary of Anne Frank. But I have The Book Thief on my shelf and I'm hoping to get to it soon.
    Thanks for the recommendation that I should read Anne Frank before Annexed!

  5. I have never read the Diary of Anne Frank but did read Annexed. I didn't find the characters confusing but now I really want to read Diary of a Young Girl. Just so I can explore the story more. Great review.

  6. This sounds like such a great book! Life after the Annex...
    Pity about the 'sexulisation' part...
    As much as I would like to read this, I don't think I could! I would cry too much! I've watched a film and a television series on Anne Franks life and cried at various moments in each. I think this would be too upsetting [the part on the train you said was tragic, I'll bet my life I would cry at that bit!].
    But great review and thanks for writing it :D

  7. Aylee- I've had The Book Thief on my shelf for 2 years and I still haven't read it! I know, very bad of me but I will get round to it soon :)

    Tammy- You should go ahead and read the Diary Of A Young Girl as soon as you can- it's wonderful! The best thing about it is the reality of the situation and how Anne was a real teenage girl.

    Ria- Just to clarify, it's Peter's thoughts whilst in the Annexe and not life afterwards. It is very sad but the strange thing is, I hardly ever cry when reading because sometimes stories can be so tragic that I physically can't.) You should read Anne's diary, I think you'd really enjoy it. It's not so much the content of her diary that's sad about it but knowing what happens afterwards. Reading about Anne's experiences of the holocaust when she is the same age as us helped me to understand it more.

  8. This sounds like a great book, in spite of the "sexualization", which I agree should probably not have been included. The Diary of Anne Frank deeply impacted me as I grew up, first in book form, then movie form, and finally in my first visit to a community theater. I definitely need to put this one on my list. Thanks for the review. (Oh, and I recently read "The Book Thief" - such a beautiful and tragic and hopeful book!)


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