March 2016 – Mini-Reviews


March 2016


(I think all of my reviews are mini-reviews now!)

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (and Otto Frank?) (published in English in 1952)

Written in Dutch, Anne’s diary is renown for providing insight into the two years her family spent in hiding during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. While critically acclaimed, controversy has followed the diary since publication, including challenges to its authenticity since Anne’s father re-wrote sections to the point where he is now considered a co-author of the diary. Co-author? I didn’t think too much about it while reading, but now question the integrity of the diary knowing Anne’s writing was so heavily edited to suit the times.

The diary not only accounts the fear and hope, as well as the social tension and relentless boredom Anne’s family endured, but the thoughts and feelings of a young girl transitioning to adolescence while under the pressure of confinement. I admired Anne’s independent spirit and empathized with how she wrestled with her feelings, as she frequently lapsed into depression and sadness.

Although Anne was in an extraordinary situation, she was still a teenager and the diary is filled with giddy thoughts and the over-analysis of minor events that seemed monumental to her young mind. I found myself cringing at times, but then again I wrote like that in my diary when I was her age, so … Or maybe Otto Frank wrote those thoughts?

I feel bad because I wasn’t blown away by Anne’s diary, but at the same time I recognize its historical importance and believe the incredible courage of her family should be remembered. What was disturbing was reading Anne’s thoughts and then the diary abruptly stops. You can’t help feeling devastated knowing why her voice is so suddenly swept away.

4/5 Stars

* * *

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (2009)

When Libby Day was seven years old, she survived the massacre of her mother and sisters at the apparent hand of her older brother, Ben. Libby even testified against Ben and helped send him to prison. Twenty-five years later, Libby meets a club obsessed with the murders and can’t ignore some of their theories on why Ben is innocent. As she begins her own investigation into their theories, Libby has to confront people from the past and her doubts that she did the right thing.

I was looking for a page-turner and this book did the trick keeping me up way past my bedtime wondering whether her brother was the murderer or not. Even though she was portrayed as a loser, I found Libby to be a very sensible character.

The massacre is quite grisly and violent, but sad too because Libby’s mother was a poor, single mother who just couldn’t catch a break right up until the very end. There was part in the book involving the slaughter of cows and I intentionally skipped it.

Full of messed-up characters doing messed-up things, this book satisfied my craving for a dark mystery. Look for my book to movie review coming soon!

3.5/5 Stars

* * *

My Brilliant Friend (2011) and The Story of a New Name (2012) by Elena Ferrante

Sorry Laura, while I was supposed to be reading The Corrections for Franzen in February, I fell down the rabbit hole of #FerranteFever and fell very hard. Since I didn’t enjoy The Days of Abandonment, I wasn’t sure whether I would ever get around to reading the Neopolitan series. They were actually handing out the fourth book at BEA and I just shrugged and walked away. Of course, I devoured these two books in an intoxicated frenzy, waking up in the middle of the night and getting out of bed to read a few more chapters.

Beginning in the 1950s and through to their twenties, the first two books follow the intense friendship between Elena and Lila as they grow up in a poor Naples village. Their friendship is full of rivalry and mistrust, as much as love and admiration. While Elena is thoughtful and intelligent, Lila is hot-tempered and rebellious. They see a sad future for themselves in the poor, broken residents of their neighbourhood and struggle to fight against the same destiny.

Elena Ferrante’s writing captures the raw emotion of her characters and their struggles with relationships, social class, violence and poverty. She goes deep inside the inner thoughts of Elena and Lila, revealing the dark and fractured place where the women try to reconcile feelings of fear, shame and worthlessness. The Italian setting was refreshing and added another interesting layer to the story. Not the romantic Italy of tourist brochures, but a run-down village that grows and transforms with the times, and is the centre of the universe for Elena and Lila.

I saw some reviews commenting on the violence in the book, but psshaw see Dark Places for violence with a capital V. If anything, the worst thing about these books are the covers.

My Brilliant Friend and The Story of a New Name had me spellbound and I look forward to reading the next two books in the series.

4.5/5 Stars for both books

Up next: The Corrections by JFranz, Cat’s Eyes by Margaret Atwood, The BFG by Roald Dahl, And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie on audio book.

Tell me your thoughts on these books! What do you think about her father being a co-author of Anne Frank’s diary?


3 comments on “March 2016 – Mini-Reviews

  1. Brian Joseph
    March 25, 2016

    I actually have never read The Diary of Anne Frank. I think that one think holding me back was the sense of gloom and darkness that I felt might pervade the read knowing how things turned out.

    With that I usually do not shy away from dark books, so I should give it a try.

    As you note It is interesting how when we read real diaries written in momentous times, how the writer will focus on what seems trivial to us.


  2. Naomi
    March 25, 2016

    I didn’t know about Otto Frank being a co-author of the book! I don’t like that it makes me wonder which parts he changed and which he didn’t. I laughed when you implied that it was the giddy teenager-y parts that he wrote. Don’t feel too bad about not being blown away by the book – I’m pretty sure I remember thinking some parts of it were boring.
    Sigh. The Ferrante books. I guess I will have to read them. 🙂


  3. Charlene @ Bookish Whimsy
    March 25, 2016

    I didn’t know The Diary of Anne Frank was edited either! It is a important historical read, and I hardly remember it – I should revisit it sometime. I have a copy of Dark Places, but never got around to reading it – because it’s so dark, I’m a bit wary now, but I’m glad it kept you reading. Oh, and I’m excited to read your thoughts on And Then There Were None! 🙂


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