cover image Anne Frank: A Hidden Life

Anne Frank: A Hidden Life

Mirjam Pressler, Miriam Pressler. Dutton Books, $15.99 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-525-46330-6

While the tragically short life of Anne Frank has elsewhere been carefully documented and inventively researched, this astonishing biography succeeds in delivering fresh and provocative insights. Editor of the definitive edition of The Diary of a Young Girl and author of the novel Halinka, Pressler brings to her task a scholar's skill for textual analysis and a novelist's empathetic imagination. Pressler begins by inviting readers to imagine Otto Frank upon liberation in Auschwitz: the exercise reminds readers of what is obvious but easily forgotten, that history is a retrospective art, and that Anne Frank's death and the discovery of her diaries were by no means inevitable. From there, Pressler draws on eyewitness accounts as well as Anne Frank's diary to shape a remarkably clear-eyed portrait of the girl, ending with her death in Bergen-Belsen. Rather than highlighting Anne's idealism, the author examines the tensions in her diary, performing a critical reading of Anne's descriptions of herself and the others in hiding, and analyzing how Anne edited and reworked her diary in hopes of postwar publication. Incisive and vigorously imaginative in its interpretations, Pressler's work could serve as a model for how to read a subjective narrative. The writing is also very personal; Pressler freely shares her strong feelings, sympathies and antipathies (""What I do admit to finding rather hard to take is Anne's arrogance in making her demands on life ""). Anne and the people surrounding her are clearly real to Pressler; she teases their lives out of the diaries and makes them real for readers. Photos not seen by PW. Ages 11-up. (Feb.)