Annelies

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 03 Apr 2019

Member Reviews

I had received an ARC of this book several months ago, but I never got around to reading it because it was in PDF and that is just an irritating format to read on an e-reader! But we did buy it for the library, so I decided to check it out. Full disclosure, I first (and last) read The Diary of a Young Girl 20 years or more ago, and unlike most girls my age, I was not enthralled by it. I feel like as a young girl myself, I overlooked the historic significance of the work and focused more on Anne's selfishness and immaturity, which is completely unfair of me, obviously. She was barely a teenager, and her writing reflects that. If nothing else, this novel made me want to go back and read the Diary with older and wiser eyes.

So, this novel... Gillham uses a few excerpts of the diary for context and to ground the story in reality, but most of the novel takes place after Anne returns from Bergen-Belsen. It is haunting, to say the least. I took two major things away from my reading. First, a lot of Holocaust memoirs that I've been exposed to seem to be written by people who were adults during their internment or by children with only vague memories. Thinking about the toll this experience would take on a young person just developing as an adult was incredibly affecting. In her diary, Anne is young and optimistic. In this novel, she spends a piece of her formative years in a concentration camp, and when she comes home she is bitter and lost, withering on the vine rather than flowering. Second, it is incredibly effective at reminding the reader of the cost of the Holocaust - not just the sheer scale of the genocide but what the loss of each individual person could mean to the world. Because we are familiar with Anne Frank and saw her potential as writer when she was just a youthful diarist, it is easy to read Gillham's imagined life for her as true history. But then the realization strikes that this individual human being died at 15 and never fulfilled her potential. Multiply that by millions and it staggers the mind. I think this book was so effective because Anne was a real person whose death we are familiar with; if it was a what-if of a fictional person with an epilogue that said "but this person died in the Holocaust," it wouldn't have had the same power.

And Gillham's writing is powerful, as well as compelling. I found this book to be a page turner, as ridiculous as it sounds to use that phrase. I was so invested in what would happen to Anne. One passage I marked that I found particularly wrenching was this thought of Anne's (written by Gillham): "I want so much. Enough for ten lifetimes. How can I stay here? How can I possibly make this my life? I want to mean something. To be someone other than a girl who did not die. I want to be a writer!" Such a painful sentiment to read for a girl who only wrote one book, published posthumously, and who is known as the girl who did die.

This book was a risky one to write, without question, but I think Gillham treated Anne Frank's memory with respect and reminded the world that she could have been so much more if she was given the time on earth. Truly an astounding work of speculative fiction.
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Interesting twist on who Anne Frank may have turned out to be had she actually survived the horrors of WWII.  This fictionalized account of Annelies post-war is both interesting and heart breaking.  It made me wonder why we canonize dead heroes who were mere humans when living.
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What young girl hasn’t read A Diary of a Young Girl while growing up?   When I finished reading it, I re-read it a few more times and then wondered what would have happened if Anne Frank had lived.  This is that story.   The story of a young girl, who lived through hell, saw things no person should ever see, and she lived to tell about it.    

Her story starts with her diary, the diary of a young girl telling about her life growing up with her mother and her father.    There are typical teenage girl entries about the clashes with her mother, her wonderful sister Margot, and her perfect father.    Then her life changes, her view of the world is tainted, and the diary isn’t that of a teenage girl.  It is the story of living after concentration camps, of losing her family and friends, and of still living in fear of being a Jew.

I had so many feelings while reading her story.    I hated how her life had changed, I hated how unhappy she was yet I was so proud of how strong she was, how she was able to put one foot in front of the other and move on with her life.   She still was vocal about what she wanted, what she thought, and what she needed but she was miserable, she was in a dark place, and she wasn’t happy.     There are no easy answers as to how to get her life back on track, how to be happy again.   Being happy is something Anne Frank has to do for herself and it is not easy.
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(review contains spoilers) What would have happened if Anne Frank had survived the holocaust? This is the starting point of Annelies by David R. Gillham. 
The story starts in 1945, after Anne (at that point sixteen years old) has returned in liberated Amsterdam and is reunited with her father Pim (Otto Frank). She is in grief because she has lost her mother and sister. She finds it difficult to start her life over again, as she is haunted by the scary memories of everything her family has experienced when they where in hiding in the backbuilding of her father's company on the Prinsengracht and surivor's gult. She even finds it hard to see the purpose and goal of going to school again. Her diary is lost, and her dreams of becoming a writer seem to have vanished. 

She tries though to pick up her life bit by bit though, with working beside school in her father's Opekta office and later on in the second hand bookshop of her father's friend Mr. Nussbaum. Otto Frank tries to pick up life as it was again, and finds a new wive, Dassah, who he marries later on in the book. This results in a lot of difficulties with Anne, who is seeing this as some kind of a 'replacement' of her mother. 
Anne gets a boyfriend to though, who she meets in the warehouses of Opekta, and this leads to her first kiss. But then rumor has it that her boyfriend's father was on the Nazi side in the war.  Her diary comes above the surface when Pim confesses he had it all the time, but it was too painfull for him to even touch it, and he doubts that it will make a good book, which is Anne's dream The story takes us from Amsterdam and later on to New York, where Anne starts her study at Barnard, where she comes eye to eye with Bep, one of the helpers again, who has something that lies heavy on her heart to confess to Anne. And, in the end, what everyone hoped for, Anne becomes a writer.

With Anne Frank as a main character and a different retelling of her life, you have to be carefull and handle it with care and grace to prevent offending anyone. 
I think the author did a great job with this. He truly did his research on Anne's life and stayed to the actual facts as much as possible, only to imagine what happened if Anne's life took a different turn for the better after Bergen-Belsen. As I am Dutch myself and know Amsterdam a littlebit, I can say that the author put the right Dutch words and centences in the right places, as he let Anne and Otto and others speak some Dutch and he also adds some in a more explanatory way. And all the Amsterdam facts where also spot on! The story of Anne's life he created was also impressive, and somehow, I could imagine Anne doing exactly so, as moving to New York in the end. Her actions and feelings where also very realistic, and I loved how the author worked out the father-daughter bond between Anne and Otto, which was just beautiful. It is totally different then Anne's tragic real life and death, but this her story with, even though there is sadness because the loss of her mother and sister, the somewhat better ending everyone wishes she have had.
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I received an ARC of this novel from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

While I enjoyed the novel, it was a bittersweet read.  It tells the story of what could have been if Anne and her family had survived WWII.
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Before I get too far ahead of myself, I want to note that I tackled Robert R. Gillham’s Annelies as a buddy read with one of my favorite fellow book bloggers. Magdalena reviews books at A Bookaholic Swede and if you haven’t done so already, I really recommend checking her site out. She’s a prolific reader and has a great catalog of honest reviews spanning a variety of genres.

I also want to note that I came to this novel as someone who has not read Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl. I know who she was and am familiar with her story, but my understanding is general in nature and I think this important to understand as my perspective of Gillham’s work is not influenced in any way by the tone or content of Anne’s diary. 

Getting into the story though, I am deeply appreciative of the restraint Gillham exercised in balancing Anne’s post-liberation experience with historical realities. Though he might have been tempted to give Anne a bright and easy future, he seems to have recognized that such as story would have lacked authenticity through its omission of the pain and hardships suffered by real survivors as they worked to rebuild their lives. 

Specifically, Gillham tackles interfamily relationships, PTSD, questions of identity, and the dramatic social changes that characterized post-WWII life in Europe. The story also incorporates a brilliant illustration of Amsterdam in 1945 which proved refreshing against trends that feature Britain, France, Germany, and the United States. 

I was a little frustrated by Gillham’s treatment of the diary as I feel the trajectory of its literary success intrinsically linked to Anne’s fate, but that’s just me. I liked Anne well-enough as a protagonist and was impressed with Gillham’s development of Pim, but love what he did with Miep who captivated my imagination from the moment she was introduced. Anne often sees her as an antagonist of sorts, but she also serves as a pillar of support and I couldn’t help falling the complexity of the role Gillham created for her. 

As one who has not read the diary I cannot speak to how Gillham’s heroine aligns to its real life inspiration, but I will say that I appreciated Gillham’s effort to create a story that embodies the experiences of survivors in the same way its source material has come to embody and define the experiences and reflections of those who struggled to survive in hiding.
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I was given and advance galley of this book for my honest review. That being said, I'm not sure how I feel about it.

The writing was very good, and the fictional story blended well with the autobiographical one. When Anne returns alive, she is bitter, angry, and angsty and deservedly so. Not only has this fictional Anne lost her mother and sister, she is also probably experiencing delayed puberty and PTSD. That said, it is difficult to like her, and that feels strange after loving the trapped in time version of her that readers have known for decades. But just because I didn't like this fictional Anne doesn't have to reflect negatively on the story or writing, because if the author was going for an insufferable teenager, he succeeded!

I do feel that Mr. Gillham's connections to the diary were genuine and when the fictional Anne is remembering something from the annex or the camp it read authentically to what I have learned and know about her story.

If I were purchasing books for high schoolers, I would definitely consider this title.
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Anne Frank is 16. She has survived the concentration camps and returned to Amsterdam, where she reunites with her father Pim and learns they are the only two from the annex that have survived. This imagined alternate world where Anne Frank lives to go back home and retrieve the infamous diary has left my head spinning. The what if’s do not seem wasteful, they are thought provoking alternatives analyzing the depth of anger, forgiveness, and guilt that survivors struggle with for their entire lives. Forgiveness may seem impossible but is also necessary to be free. As a child I read The Diary of Anne Frank over and over again. As an adult I continue reading these reimagined novels focusing what could have been, what may have happened. It may not always be pleasant to revisit such a painful story but it is sometimes necessary. In some way we are still feeding this desire to understand how this atrocity happened and never forget those we lost. Excellent author, well researched and a truly touching story.
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I honestly have no idea how to rate and review this book. I feel really conflicted about this story. I think Gillham made a really interesting, impactful, unnerving choice in the way he portrayed a version of Anne Frank that survived the war, and what her personality and opinions might have been like had she survived, and the ways in which the horrors she experienced impact every part of her life. This book is, appropriately, difficult to read at times as the author details what Anne Frank may have experienced at the hands of the Nazis, and I think that the historical detail in what life was like in Amsterdam in the immediate shadow of the war was well done, and not something I've read about extensively in historical fiction. The ways in which Anne Frank's "character" in this book acts post war is fittingly angry and dissatisfied, both for what she's experienced and her age.
Usually I don't have a problem with using historical figures in fiction- I often really enjoy books that examine the lives of women throughout history. But something about this one didn't always feel "right" to me, and I can't totally put my finger on what troubled me about this choice.
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In David R. Gillham’s new novel, after “City of Women,” he asks the question: What if Anne Frank had survived the Holocaust? A single answer would not be possible, since had this been true, there are a million possibilities. Every time I think about that question, my mind hums with scenarios.

In this work, Gillham spends a little over the first half of the book reimagining the Frank’s family life in Amsterdam. He gives us a fictional account of the family’s interaction and takes a long look at their life they had while they were in hiding in secret rooms of her father’s business. The fear they felt was palpable. When the family is betrayed, my heart broke again for those who endured the Nazi brutality. Readers get to tag along as the family of four, and their friends, endure the cattle cars that took them to their living hells. 

The second third of the story takes place after Anne is reunited with her father, Otto (the only true survivor of the atrocities). Anne is seventeen and very angry. This section of the book takes place mostly in 1946 as Anne, Otto, Otto’s new bride, and the friends who hid them try to adjust to life after the war. 

Anne is very sensitive to and conscious of the number tattooed on her forearm. She covers it with powder and long sleeves. It’s hard to watch Anne as she feels the guilt for having survived when her mother and sister did not.
Through it all, Anne writes. She writes before the Nazis arrest and deport her family to the concentration camps. She writes when she is in the camps. She writes when she returns to the liberated Amsterdam. The betrayal that she feels when she learns that the thin sheets of paper she had been writing before the arrest and been found and saved by one of those who tried to protect her family is horrific. 

Then the story jumps to 1961. Readers get a small glimpse into her life, but mostly that section is Anne answering fan letters from young girls.

I was extremely disappointed in this novel. I expected Gillham to imagine the adult Anne and what she may have done with her life. Instead, most readers’ basic knowledge of Anne’s history is rehashed. The writing and plot are well done, but since Gillham didn’t deliver on his promise, “Annelies” receives 2 out of 5 stars in Julie’s world.
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What if Anne Frank had survived?  This book takes that premise and explores her life before hiding, and then her reunion with her father after surviving a concentration camp.

I think this book has a great premise.  However, I did not particularly like how the author executed the story.  The author spent a lot of time on pre-diary Anne, and then skipped almost straight to her reunion with her father.  There was a handful of chapters about her life in hiding, the concentration camp, and her recovery in the hospital - but there was not enough substance to make these time periods feel realistic.  I really wish the author had focused on different time periods, and truly explored what happened, and what could have been.  Overall, a bust.
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I wanted to love this book because I loved the idea of giving Anne Frank a life beyond Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen.  David Gillham obviously did his homework with respect to research regarding his topic.  For that, I applaud him.  The book itself is well-written, the characters believable.  But this was not the book I had hoped for.  I had hoped to read a book more focused on Anne as an adult, but the book focused largely on an understandably angry, haunted teenager Anne.  While I certainly think that showing that version of Anne was important and necessary, it seemed to consume the bulk of the book, leaving only a bit at the end to show us an adult Anne who lived and saw success.  

For some, perhaps younger readers, this may be just the book they are looking for, but for me, I felt a sense of relief when I finished it.
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Anne Frank is, arguably, the best known victim of the Holocaust.  That is a dubious distinction, but most young people first learn about the blueprint for genocide through the diary kept by Anne during two years in hiding in an annex to a spice factory in Amsterdam.


The conceit of this book, and it is not the first time that this subject as formed the subject for a book, is that Anne returned from the camps and went on to live out her life as the second survivor of her family group.


This book spans the time before the Frank's went into hiding with the Van Pels (Van Damm in the book) and a single elderly dentist; goes through the years in the concentration camp, though less than most books; and deals with the aftermath of survivors' guilt and trauma suffered by those who came out of the camps.  


In the original diary, Anne presents as a feisty, self-centered fairly typical teenager in highly unusual circumstances. Rather than picturing Anne as the saintly young woman she has come to be remembered as, Gilham extends her real personality and shows post-camp Anne as an angry, traumatized, deeply depressed person who, while glad to be back with her beloved father, at some level blames him for her ordeal.  She pushes away the helpers like Miep and Bep who risked their own lives to save the Franks, and is a generally unlikable if totally understandable character.  While her father fights to reestablish their pre-war closeness, Anne seeks escape to the U.S. where she visualizes another life, where she can be anonymous in the crowds of New York.


In addition to her other problems, Anne is being haunted by the ghost of her dead sister. Margot, who drives Anne deeper into her grief by reminding her that perhaps the wrong sister survived the war.  She is also infuriated by her father's rather quick remarriage to a woman she cannot accept as a substitute for her mother.


Like Anne, herself, the book is a bundle of contradictions mixing historic fact, gleanings from the diary, and the author's imaginings.  Otto Frank's misgivings about publishing the book so as not to reveal the dysfunction in the family and in the people in the Annex is true and the reason that early versions of the diary were heavily edited.  There is a reveal about how exactly Otto retained a revenue stream during the war in a less than savory way.  There is also speculation about who turned the Franks into the Green Police for $40 a head, approximately.  The suspect is different than the usual people mentioned as collaborators.  

This is a more fully realized Anne than the diary provides.  It turns Anne from victim to survivor which changes her fate and her charge enormously.  Would Anne have gone on to become an author with a strong following, especially among teenaged girls?  That is likely because it is true even though the author did not survive.  

I have frequently been asked, "What famous person would I want to have lunch with," and my answer is usually Anne Frank because then she would not have died.  This is a very different Anne than I always thought I would have invited to dine.
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This is an interesting take on the life of Anne Frank with the premise that she survived the Holocaust. The descriptions of different scenes based on other's accounts were vivid and very realistic. Lots of research went into this book which is very appealing. Anne after the war was hard to imagine because of the way she was portrayed giving her father such a hard time. From the diary we know that Anne and her father was so close that it makes no sense for the drastic turn about. Her anger with her father just didn't ring true. I have mixed feelings about this book.
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I was fortunate enough to read this book pre-released through Net Galley for my honest opinion. This story is based on a factual life of Anne Frank up to her time in the concentration camp. The author fictionalizes the premise that Anne survived after the camp was liberated. Anne returns to Amsterdam and the story continues from there. This novel was an emotional and thought provoking ride that really stayed long after finishing, but well worth the trip! I did have to take breaks from reading but felt compelled to keep going.
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