Fresh light on the attic writer

ANNE FRANK: A HIDDEN LIFE By Mirjam Pressler Dutton Children's Books 176 pp., $15.99 Grades 6 and up

When I think back to my life in 1942, it all seems so unreal. The Anne Frank who enjoyed that heavenly existence was completely different from the one who has grown wise within these walls ... I look back at that Anne Frank as a pleasant, amusing, but superficial girl, who has nothing to do with me." (March 7, 1944).

Such is the focus of a new analysis of Anne Frank and her famous diary, examining with only occasional redundancy this remarkable young girl and how her two years hidden in the secret annex altered the direction of her development into nascent womanhood.

Written by Mirjam Pressler, who helped Otto Frank edit the definitive edition of "The Diary," this study also draws on diary entries never before made public, as well as the scholarly edition of "The Diary," including all Anne's writing and revision.

Pressler has intelligently organized this book for young readers 11 years and older, ranging from chapters dealing with the Frank family history and the Netherlands under Nazi occupation to separate treatments of the annex occupants and their Dutch helpers. Anne's metamorphosis from girl to young woman, accelerated perhaps by her narrowly centered life in the annex, is sensitively analyzed, including her first stirrings of sexual awareness. Particularly engrossing are chapters revealing Anne not just as a precocious girl who might one day have become a writer, but documenting her preternatural instincts as an observer of human nature.

Also deeply touching and disturbing is the authentication of what happened to each annex inhabitant after the 1944 betrayal and deportation to concentration camps.

The fascinating scrutiny of each aspect of Anne's experience is sometimes repetitious because Pressler's main primary source is only the two years of intermittent diary entries. However, this compelling book offers readers fresh insights into both diary and author and can best be used as a companion piece for young readers of Anne's diary, either as a sequential whole or, perhaps better, as individual chapters to parallel the original.

Teachers will find this study especially useful for helping students understand the unforgettable universality of Anne's life.

*Verity Ludgate-Fraser teaches English at the Berkeley Hall School in Los Angeles.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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