Anne Frank is the sister we all know. As a girl, she kept a diary while she and her family endured increasingly restrictive anti-Jewish regulations in Amsterdam during World War II. The Frank family–Otto and Edith, with their two daughters Margot and Anne–along with the van Pels family, eventually took refuge in what Anne called The Secret Annex, hoping to wait out the Nazi terrors. But in August 1944 they were betrayed and deported. Otto Frank, Anne’s father, was the only member of the family to survive.
Jillian Cantor’s novel takes a “what if?” approach to this well known story, imagining that Margot, Anne’s older sister, survived the death camps and made her way to the United States, settling in Philadelphia and working as a secretary. Her desire to suppress her background is challenged because her wartime memories refuse to remain submerged. Try as she might, Margot cannot escape her past.
While this is not a perfect book–one particular plot point didn’t work for me and there was the occasional dash of melodrama–it is a haunting tale of sibling love and rivalry compounded by survivor’s guilt. Ideally, it should be read along with Ellen Feldman’s excellent The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank, which centers on Peter van Pels and how he would have led his life had he survived.
My next entry will also focus on captivity and survival: a review of the movie version of Unbroken.