Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Shadow Life: A Portrait of Anne Frank and Her Family - Barry Denenberg

I wanted to like this book, I really did. When I first read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl as a kid, I immediately connected with it on an emotional level and I went on to try to get any information I could on her, not so easy back in the pre-internet days. Her diary also spurred me to read about the Holocaust in general. Over the years I have accumulated a small library of books related to her, including the critical edition of the diary, and an edition of the diary in the original Dutch purchased at the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam, although for the past decade or so there seem to be many more books about her surfacing, and many I have not yet had a chance to read. From time to time I look for new books about or related to her when I'm at the library and/or bookstore, and I recently found this one.

It was a real disappointment. It's really just a rehash of information in books I already own. Much of the book is taken up by the author's recreation of Anne's sister Margot's diary, which is mentioned once in Anne's diary but has never been found. This recreation was mainly just a rewrite of Anne's diary. I realize that it would have been difficult to not rely on Anne's diary in creating a fictionalized version of Margot's, but it just didn't add much to the story that couldn't be better found in other places. The rest of the book gives information that is mostly found elsewhere, so the general impression of this book is like one of those "clip shows" that reality TV shows use toward the end of the season, showing the highlights of the season with a few "never before seen" moments to make things seem fresher. To add insult to injury, the writing was clunky.

I'm sorry to say I would not recommend this book. There are many good books that would be much better sources if one wants to read more about Anne Frank, her family, etc.

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