Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Book Review: Annexed by Sharon Dogar

Annexed - Sharon Dogar

Peter van Pels is a Jewish teenager, living in Amsterdam in the 1940s.
With the ever-growing threat of the Nazi invasion, Peter and his parents are reduced to hiding away in the annexe of a factory building. Living with them, in close confines, are the Jewish owners of the building- the Franks- and their two young daughters, Margot and Anne. Pining for his ‘girlfriend’ Liese, who was taken earlier by Nazi soldiers, and wishing he could get out of the annexe and fight the Nazi’s like a man, Peter finds it difficult to adjust to his new life in hiding.
Adding to his frustrations, he finds himself increasingly annoyed by Anne and her constant know-it-all chatter. It gets to the point where his only escape is to sit in the warehouse (on weekends, when no one else is around) and carve wood.
But then Peter starts to notice small changes in Anne, and his tolerance for her grows. Soon, he begins to look forward to the time they spend with each other, and a mutual attraction forms. But does Anne really care about Peter in the way that he cares about her? Is she only spending time with him so that she has something to write about in her precious diary? And when the ultimate betrayal occurs, will he able to live, knowing that Anne is out there somewhere, trying to survive the horrors of the holocaust?
These are Peter van Pels’ (imagined) experiences, dealing with terrible circumstances that will hopefully never be repeated again.

What I gained from reading this book:
There are many themes scattered throughout this novel, but the main ones would have to be about tolerance, love and respect (both of the self, and for others). Peter initially finds it difficult to live in such a small space with people he doesn’t really know or like, but he soon comes to grow fond of his ‘neighbours’. From the start, he shows respect for Mr Frank, and tolerates Mrs Frank and quiet Margot, but he absolutely dislikes Anne. He thinks of her as an obnoxious loudmouth, and constantly compares her to his beloved Liese, a girl who is in all ways opposite to the kind of girl Anne is. It isn’t until he gets to know her, and realise how insecure and afraid she is (and how this shapes her behaviour) that he starts to appreciate Anne’s company. After this, his respect and love for her grows. At the same time, Peter battles with feelings of resentment towards the Nazis and the way that they are treating the Jewish people. He wishes that he could fight them, rather than hide from them, and, already a non-practising Jew, becomes disgusted with the negative status that his religion gives him.
It isn’t until he falls in love with Anne that these feelings gradually fade to the back of his mind, and he has new things to think about.
Readers can learn from Peter’s ability to be more open-minded about his experiences in the annexe, and put those motions into practice in everyday life by being more tolerant of other people.

It’s great how the author is able to piece together the Anne Frank story and tell it from Peter’s perspective, putting a different spin on the events that were made so famous in Anne’s diary. Dogar has managed to seamlessly weave real-life facts with fiction, making this novel particularly interesting to read. It makes you want to go back to the original source (Anne Frank’s diary), and read it again.

While it is interesting to read snippets of what Peter experiences in the camps- in between his experiences in the annexe- it can sometimes get a little repetitive reading the same thing over and over. I understand that Dogar is trying to paint a picture of the bleakness that Peter faces in the camps, and is attempting to show the repetitiveness of life for the Jewish prisoners, but it still doesn’t change the fact that reading almost-identical paragraphs at different intervals can get a little tedious.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Genre: Teenage Fiction

Recommended for: People who have always wondered about the relationship between Anne Frank and Peter van Pels, and don’t mind reading a fictional take on events.

Australians can buy the book by clicking the picture below:


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