Britt Leigh's Reviews > Annexed

Annexed by Sharon Dogar
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Jul 10, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: arc-reads, ya

I feel like I need to write multiple reviews. One from the frame of mind of never having read Anne Frank's diary and treating the set-up as pure fiction - another Holocaust story. Another from the frame of mind of reading the novel and the source text side by side to compare notes. And yet again as separating the chronicled events in the attic from the disembodied narration from the camps, which Sharon Dogar explicitly says in an author's note is meant to be an Everyman character. But I cannot because the author did not separate them. She leaves us readers with a motley of narratives.

Narrative 1: Anne in the attic. I did not have the capability to read this novel in tandem with her diary. I wish I had so I could compare/contrast Peter's entries and recordings of events with Anne's. Therefore, I cannot adequately comment on whether Dogar captured Anne as she was self-depicted in the diary, or if Anne's impressions inspired a plausible reaction/instigation from Peter's entries. From what I remember of reading her full diary (after what her father was excised was put back in), certain events were true, but Anne did not feel so. At some points, Peter's portrayal of her came off as flighty and sillier than I envisioned her. But isn't that the case with people - dead/alive, fictional/real - we all have our own ideas about how they are? Given that thinking, I can respect Dogar's choice to record her perceptions of these people, as long as she's clear that it's HER interpretation and that it is fiction. But.

Narrative 2: Peter in the attic. I was engrossed in his story. Many narratives of the Holocaust I've read are from the female point-of-view. As a child and teen, I desired to relate to their experiences more, and however real or based on reality, did not have an inclination toward boy books. If thought of as a narrative of any young guy, I feel this story captured true and honest feelings of a real male teen. Half the book (divided into not chapters, but very long "entries" headed by dates - so not entirely a diary) deals with Peter's desire for a girl and frustrations at being pent up. But I couldn't fully absorb it or enter into it, because I knew Anne, Peter, and the rest of the annex hiders were real once, and it caused a dissonance. I almost want to renege on the statement made at the end of the last paragraph because of this line Dogar gives to Peter: He asks Anne after she says she won't write about him, but may make him a character in a story " 'Do you know how it feels?...it's on a page where it looks like the truth - even if it isn't!'...It feels like being stolen.'" I think it's a fair critique to make that Dogar has essentially stolen the real Peter and put him on a page, a page that many people will think looks like a truth about the Annexed precisely because she was so careful to mention that she's read and loved Anne's diary. I guess I wanted greater justification for using him and Anne's story in particular. Why obfuscate some people's real truths to tell a more-universal truth?

Narrative 3: Peter/Everyman in the camp. This writing, intermingled with the "present-day-style" narration, was the most profound and moving. In concise words and sentences, the voice of this person echoed around my brain and damn near broke my heart. These passages are where Dogar excels and gives meaning to the fiction.

But why did she have create a new genre - imagined memoir- to express the longing, the fear, belief in personhood and dignity? I think we all wondered what the people in the attic were like, especially Peter, and especially after he was played by a hunky guy in the black and white movie. Dogar happened to put those thoughts to paper. The four stars goes to the quality of the writing, not to the idea.
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