Annexed by Sharon Dogar
Published: 2010 by Houghton Mifflin
Reading Challenge: A-Z Book Challenge
It takes a lot of guts to write a novel based on a historical figure. It takes even more guts to write a novel based on a historical figure who is so beloved. Anne Frank is such a historical figure, and though Annexed is not specifically about her, she is a key character in the novel.
Annexed is written from the perspective of Peter van Pels, the boy who was in hiding with Anne in the attic in Amsterdam. Of course we all know Anne’s version, but what could it have been like for a teenage boy? Anne had her diary, her imagination, and even her sister Margot to commiserate with, but poor Peter only had his parents and his cat. Obviously the narrative of the novel is only speculative, but it does seem to follow the same evolutionary path that is taken in Anne’s diary — that is, Peter and Anne initially can’t really stand each other’s company, then they develop a reluctant friendship, and a budding romance blooms. We also see a glimpse of how the others in the attic may have viewed Anne’s diary - Peter often hesitates on telling Anne what he really feels for fear that she will treat the information merely as something to write about.
Where this book differs from the diary is that it describes the experience after the secret annex was discovered and its inhabitants arrested. Again, it is a fictional account, but reading Peter’s account of the camps and how he endured by remembering his time with Anne and what he learned from her (“Now do you believe in words?”) was just amazing and heartbreaking to read.
The author of this novel, Sharon Dogar, did a fantastic job of keeping true to the spirit of Anne Frank’s legacy and adding another layer of unspeakable sense of loss. It’s sad enough we didn’t have the opportunity to discover the full potential of Anne Frank, but to fully grasp how many other young people were snuffed out before they had their chance to shine ….. well, the mind boggles. Unfortunately there is no way for a novel with this subject matter to have a happy ending, but even knowing the outcome will not stop you from reading to the last page.