Annexed, penned by British YA author Sharon Dogar, will be published in both Great Britain and the United States this fall. It tells the story of Anne Frank, the Jewish teenager whose eloquent diaries of her life in hiding from the Nazis were published after her death in the German concentration camps. But the tale is told from the vantage point of Peter van Pels, the teenage boy whose family shared the cramped attic hiding space with the Frank family and with whom Anne shared a brief romance.
According to Anne’s diary, the relationship between her and Peter van Pels, who also died in the concentration camps, never went much further than many shared confidences and a few experimental kisses. However in Dogar’s re-telling of the tale, things get quite heated between the pair. While her publisher confirms the author removed scenes of the pair making love from the final version of the book, he also said that the author believes Anne and Peter “had sex.”
Not surprisingly, the surviving members of the Frank family are not happy. Buddy Elias, Anne’s first cousin and childhood playmate, told the British Telegraph, “I do not believe their terrible destiny should be used to invent some fictitious story.”
While one hates to call BS on writers using real events and classic novels to create their own original tales (if we did, amazing books ranging from Bel Canto to Wide Sargasso Sea would not exist), Annexed feels more than a bit icky. That’s not totally Dogar’s fault. As authors ranging from Francine Prose to Cynthia Ozick have pointed out, The Diary of Anne Frank holds the iconic status in our culture that it does as a result of many editorial omissions and revisions that began with Anne herself, but continued on with her father and others who wished tell the story of her life in ways that buttressed points they wanted to make.
So what makes Dogar so wrong? Well, there is a big difference between omitting material (as Frank’s father and early editors did) and making the stuff up. Maybe there is just something about telling tales about children who ultimately died horrible, horrible deaths, but Annexed has the feel of something that would have been better off not written or, at least, not written the way it is. If Dogar wanted to make-up a tale about two teenagers hiding from the Nazis who enjoy a brief affair before being found and sent to their deaths, there was nothing to stop her. That’s why it’s called fiction.
What do you think? Would you buy this book for your child or read it yourself?