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I have decided to read more this year.
I found a reading challenge and have created a list of books, both paper and digital from books I already own.
One of the first was The Diary of Ann Frank.
A book I meant to read at school, or a journal.
I’ve been to the famous Ann Frank house a number of times since coming to The Netherlands. But in all that time I’d never read the book. I owned it but that was it.
I guess knowing about her story got in the way. I sort of thought I probably had the message.
So when I sat down to read her words I realised I’d started reading it a few times and not got past the first few pages, again I think assumed I knew what was there.
Now I have read it, I have had this girl in my mind for days.
I had so little idea how amazing she was and how smart her writing is too.
First of all, I understood for the first time that she has the voice of a teenager that’s really familiar. It’s the voice in my head when I was thirteen. It’s the voice of a teenager today too.
Her relationship with her family members and the other Annex inhabitants replicates family now and when I was growing up too.
One aspect of this story that struck me was the familiarity with her environment. She mentions the bijenkorf which is a department store a few streets from the house.
The street names are familiar to me too. She describes dutch foods and festivals including Sinterklaas.
The reality of her life became so plain it was breathtaking.
A normal girl living in The Netherlands.
I hadn’t realised how much connection they had with the outside world. The British radio kept them informed. They knew when people were being taken, they knew what the world was doing.
As the direction of the war shifted and the allies began to approach, the Franks knew they were coming. The gradual process was mapped out. The liberation got very close.
Just not close enough.
The restrictions on daily life are described too. The pressure on people from the occupying troops, to hand over those in hiding.
The house was also burgled a number of times. The anxiety this causes is palpable. Their secret life is under threat from so many directions. Neighbours who might over hear, employees in the warehouse, night watchmen, thieves, policemen….. The list is long.
I learned so much about myself reading this book. It sounds like a cliche.
One of the bee keepers we work with is about the same age that Ann Frank would have been, had she lived.
He has talked about some of his memories of the occupation, hiding, and going without food.
For Ann Frank’s existence to become so real and in such close proximity was something I hadn’t really anticipated.
That reality is what has remained in my thoughts. A normal girl in the world which I live in. Normal yet special; ordinary yet extraordinary,: an immortal story with such a harsh reality.
It made me see even more clearly how precious freedom is and how significant every day should be.
If it’s a book you’ve meant to read it’s worth finding the time.
I was in Amsterdam this week, walking down a canal in the evening. The building have such timeless structure. Bicycles whizzed past in the twilight; nothing much changed.
It’s seventy years ago that Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated this year.
a blog by a multilingual expat-since-birth, linguist, researcher, mum of three, living in the Netherlands and writing about bilingualism, multiculturalism, parenting abroad, international life...