Picks and Pans Review: The Diary of a Young Girl
For those who haven't given Anne Frank's diary a second thought since writing a fifth-grade book report about her two-year life in hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam, it's time to refresh our memories. Republished on the 50th anniversary of her death, this new edition includes entries that her father, Otto, had excised from the original, either for space or for taste.
The restored material illustrates Frank's natural curiosity about her own budding body—which she isn't bashful about describing in graphic detail—her dawning awareness of boys and sexuality, and a sense of moral outrage at things great and small. Of one classmate she writes, "J. is detestable, a sneaky, stuck-up, two-faced gossip who thinks she's so grown up...." And her strong will takes on larger challenges: "What I condemn is our system of values and the men who don't acknowledge how great, difficult, but ultimately beautiful women's share in society is." This fortitude of character is sweetly complemented by a longing for tenderness. "Losing your virtue doesn't matter, as long as you know that for as long as you live, you'll have someone at your side who understands you."
That Frank, who died at 15 in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, could have been so young, so thoughtful and yet so much like a typical teenager, makes each entry more painful as her diary comes to a close. The grim irony of her Jan. 30, 1944, entry, written eight months before her arrest, speaks for itself: "I have an intense need to be alone. Father has noticed I'm not my usual self, but I can't tell him what's bothering me. All I want to do is scream 'Let me be, leave me alone!' Who knows, perhaps the day will come when I'm left alone more than I like!" (Doubleday, $25)