Sharon Dogar's ANNEXED is an interpretive imagining of Peter van Pels, the sixteen-year-old boy whose family hides with the Frank family and Fritz Pfe...moreSharon Dogar's ANNEXED is an interpretive imagining of Peter van Pels, the sixteen-year-old boy whose family hides with the Frank family and Fritz Pfeffer in a secret annex for two years during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. This fictional account covers the years spent in the annex and his final months spent at Auschwitz and Mauthausen.
With its publication date months away, ANNEXED has received criticism from both the press and blogs for adding a fictionalized sexual dimension to the story of Anne Frank. These sources definitely raise some important questions: Is it necessary to do so? What does this story bring to the account of Anne Frank that Anne's diary does not?
Peter may be designated by the book's subtitle as "the boy who loved Anne Frank," but this book is not a teenage romance insensitively set against a backdrop of genocide. Peter's changing relationship to Anne is a major component of the book, certainly, but it's not what defines Dogar's characterization of Peter.
Getting this out of the way first: there is no sex scene. There is very little that's graphic in the portrayal of Peter's sexuality or the feelings he has for Anne or she for him. It's no more graphic than Anne's musings about menstruation, sex, and her own sexuality in her own diary. Peter privately expresses a repeated worry that he'll never make love to a girl. Peter and Anne kiss and touch rather chastely. Peter feels longing: for Anne, for love, for freedom, for even the smallest forms of empowerment, for the childhood and the life he's being denied but also for adulthood.
Peter's struggle with his identity, and all the different facets of it -- family, faith, culture, nationality, his uncertain future, the dynamic of connection and alienation, his sexual awakening -- is what I found most engaging about the book. Putting together a coherent identity (and learning how to live that identity!) is difficult enough for any sixteen-year-old, but under the crisis of war and genocide, it's an even more intense project. Dogar does a good job with depicting the disparate and conflicted emotions of the teenagers in the book (Peter, Anne, and Margot), all filtered through Peter's eyes, and in this way, it's a mirror of Anne's diary. I was a young teenager when I first read Anne Frank's diary, and I was struck most by how I could see myself and my feelings in Anne and her writing. Anne's honesty about her emotions and her full personhood are so vivid in her diary, and in this novel, Dogar gives the same type of attention to Peter, whose emotional journey intersects Anne's.
The writing is at times stilted and melodramatic, but the poignancy still often shines through. Peter struggles with words, in comparison to the voluble Anne, and the theme of words and their significance is returned to, time and time again, in a thought-provoking way.
So what is the value of ANNEXED, of a fictional interpretation of an already compelling non-fictional account? When what so many people find memorable and poignant about Anne's diary is its honesty and its authenticity, what value is there in a fictionalized companion to it? Even after reading this book, I'm not sure. I would have been equally moved by the story if Peter were a completely fictional character, and as with all historical fiction, I feel dread about the possibility of readers going on to take or to remember this fiction as fact. Dogar seemed to have approached this project with an open heart and sensitivity for the real life tragedy and for the memory of Anne, Peter, and the others, and the story of Anne Frank is a global touchstone for which a wide audience would be interested in reading about further. However, I'm left with the feeling that this piece of fiction didn't necessarily have to be about real life figures, especially as a representative of the Anne Frank Trust has expressed misgivings about the depiction of these people in this book.
ANNEXED will be released in September 2010 in the U.K. and in October 2010 in the U.S.
Anna Jackson, a young breast cancer survivor, has left her law practice to start her own business as a chauffeur. Part of her brand new lifestyle is t...moreAnna Jackson, a young breast cancer survivor, has left her law practice to start her own business as a chauffeur. Part of her brand new lifestyle is to take chances and live life to the fullest, and instead of struggling against her attraction to client Marc Lewis, she embarks on a full-fledged, no-strings-attached fling. Marc himself, still fraught from his painful divorce, is not looking for a relationship either. The two, however, find themselves developing an emotional intimacy beyond what they had bargained for--and beyond what they think they want and are ready for.
While the writing didn't feel as tight as her recent works, the story itself and the characters are solid Mayberry: well-developed and understandable. The sex is playful and wonderfully in-character. I enjoyed watching Anna and Marc reveal more and more of themselves AFTER they've already fallen into lust. While the secondary storyline about Anna's brother Danny annoyed me often (though the stock "gay best friend" being the protagonist's brother was an interesting enough twist that lead to relevant complications with their family life), I did like how his romantic subplot reflected on Anna's.(less)