Anne Frank’s Tales from the Secret Annex by Anne Frank
My rating: 7/10
One Sentence Verdict: Lesser known writings from an extraordinarily brave young woman, this collection gives another insight into Anne Frank’s life and thoughts which we might not garner from her diary alone
Tales From The Secret Annex is a collection of short stories, personal reminisces, fables and Anne Frank’s unfinished novel, Cady’s Life, which the author wrote between the ages of thirteen and fifteen whilst hiding from the Nazis in the “secret annex”, the attic of an office building in Amsterdam during the Second World War.
Anne Frank’s diary is famous, and rightly so, but few people know much about her other writings. I include myself in the majority who were not aware of their ever being published. Other than writing her diary, Anne wrote about a good deal of other things, and had started to write a novel whilst in hiding.
Some of the short tales are excerpts from her diary; these detail everyday life in the annex, and amusing portrayals of her family, the Van Daans who were staying in the annex with them, and Dussel, a dentist also in hiding. Most of the other fables and stories in this book were written down by Anne in a notebook she used just for that purpose, and a number of others as well as some excerpts from Cady’s Life, were written on loose sheets of paper from which the story was gleaned and put together for this book.
Her stories from school in A Biology Class and A Math Class show another side to Anne, a more carefree girl before the days of the annexe, where her talkative and stubborn personality shines through more than in the dull monotony of their time in hiding. Eva’s Dream is about a little girl visited by an elf in her dream who teaches her the importance of being warm-hearted and kind, and not getting upset about trivial things. Perhaps the Eva of the story is Anne herself, or at least some of the inspiration for the story would have been drawn from Anne’s own life.
Delusions of Stardom tells the story of a dream common to many young girls, of being whisked away by a celebrity into a new, glamorous life; but in this story, the narrator finds that a life of fame is not all it’s supposed to be! Anne introduces the story as her “answer to Mrs Van Daan, who’s forever asking me why I don’t want to be a movie star”; Anne even at fourteen was imaginative and witty with a dry sense of humour.
Cady’s Life was never finished, but the parts of it published in this collection give a picture of Anne’s intentions and again show her excellent writing talent, especially for one so young. Cady is a young girl injured in an accident which finds her in hospital. Cady, like Anne herself, is closer to her father than to her mother, and she laments her lack of a relationship with her mother to a nurse who is looking after her in the hospital.
The final fragment of the unfinished novel in particular is very poignant and thought-provoking. Cady goes to visit her friend Mary, who is Jewish and living in fear of being taken away by the National Socialists. After her visit that night, a group of men characterised by the sound of their boots as they move along the street, corner her, and she only gets away after producing her ID card to prove that she is “a Christian girl from a decent family”. One of the Germans, angry at his mistake, kicks her and leaves her in the street.
Cady visits Mary again the next week, but finds her house sealed up with Mary’s family gone. She despairs of her friend’s fate, knowing what must await her, and wonders why this injustice has befallen her, “Mary, who was just the same as she was”.
This story is all the more heartrending when you consider that Anne must have so many times wondered what it was that made her so different to the other girls who were allowed to continue their lives as usual, and that Anne must have known what awaited them if they were discovered, as they later were after being betrayed by a neighbour.
I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed The Diary of a Young Girl, particularly teenagers, as many of the stories will resonate with that age group in particular.