Annelies by David R. Gillham


David R. Gillham

A story of trauma and redemption, Annelies honors Anne Frank’s legacy as not only a symbol of hope and perseverance, but also a complex young woman of great ambition and heart.

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A powerful and deeply humane new novel that asks the question: What if Anne Frank survived the Holocaust?

The year is 1945, and Anne Frank is sixteen years old. Having survived the concentration camps, but lost her mother and sister, she reunites with her father, Pim, in newly liberated Amsterdam. But it’s not as easy to fit the pieces of their life back together. Anne is adrift, haunted by the ghosts of the horrors they experienced, while Pim is fixated on returning to normalcy. Her beloved diary has been lost, and her dreams of becoming a writer seem distant and pointless now.

As Anne struggles to overcome the brutality of memory and build a new life for herself, she grapples with heartbreak, grief, and ultimately the freedom of forgiveness. A story of trauma and redemption, Annelies honors Anne Frank’s legacy as not only a symbol of hope and perseverance, but also a complex young woman of great ambition and heart.

Anne Frank is a cultural icon whose diary painted a vivid picture of the Holocaust and made her an image of humanity in one of history’s darkest moments. But she was also a person—a precocious young girl with a rich inner life and tremendous skill as a writer. In this masterful new novel, David R. Gillham explores with breathtaking empathy the woman—and the writer—she might have become.

Advance Galley Reviews

"...the swinging bookcase that is the line of demarcation between freedom and constraint... between life in the actual world and this strange limited existence in hiding". Anne Frank had "learned to depend on words to see herself more clearly...she confesses only to the page, because if people aren't patient, paper is." Such are the thoughts of Anne Frank, the ruminations conveyed in "Diary of a Young Girl". Anne's diary provided her with an outlet for her innermost feelings while her family was in hiding in "Het Achterhuis" (The House Behind), the rear annex of Otto Frank's office building. In August 1944, the Frank family were rounded up and sent to the Punishment Barracks, the crime,..."having tried to save themselves by going into hiding". What if Anne Frank had survived the Holocaust? "Annelies" by David R. Gillham is a historical novel imagining Anne and her papa, "Pim" as sole survivors of "Het Achterhuis". Anne's diary expressed typical teenage clashes with her mother, jealousy of her grounded, beautiful sister Margot, but, "there is no one on earth who can make her feel as safe and loved as her papa". Imagine Anne surviving typhus and waking up in a displaced person's camp and her amazement finding out that her beloved Pim, having survived as well, was living in Amsterdam. Both Pim and Anne must deal with ghosts and survivors guilt. Anne's guilt manifest's itself in an overpowering "fight or flight" reaction. Pim's attempt to protect Anne feeds into her angst and belligerence. This reader tended to waffle between feeling that Anne's diary should remain her sole testament as compared to an eye opening, tragic, concentration camp experience, as imagined and based on historical documents and eyewitness accounts, followed by an imagined life as a displaced person. Anne would have lived with ghosts, horror and unimaginable darkness while trying to acclimate herself to life in post-war Amsterdam. What innermost thoughts and feelings would Anne now convey as a writer? Thank you First to Read- Penguin Random House and David R. Gillham for the opportunity to read and review "Annelies".

An interesting take on an infamous story. Hard to read but I imagine this was true for many. Thanks for the opportunity!

I have spent countless hours reading about the Holocaust, World War II, the aftermath - and I know a good bit about Anne Frank. I didn't realize this book was going to take the direction it did - to me, it was almost disrespectful. Anne didn't survive and although I understand the desire to wonder who she might have been had she survived, I feel like this author was attempting to show the PTSD Anne would have experienced but it comes across as sensationalism and taking advantage of the memory of someone whose legacy means so much to so many.

Anne Frank’s story has remained poignant since her diary was published 70 years ago. She is perpetually frozen at age 13 in photographs, her innocent gaze and her bright smile a testament for all that was lost and corrupted in World War II and the Holocaust. Her diary reflects an intelligent, emotional, and precocious young woman whose life was stolen at the hands of the most extreme prejudice and hatred. I have been fascinated with Anne’s story since I was a young girl. The possibilities of what could have been for her and the other occupants of the Secret Annex have been tragic and tantalizing. David Gillham takes his research and his curiosity and paints a picture of Anne the reluctant survivor of Bergen Belsen, her anger and sadness a wound that rips open again and again across the pages. I found myself crying at certain scenes for how emotionally charged they were, particularly one of the most climactic scenes near the end of the book where Anne tells her father that all she wants him to do is let the idea of his little girl go. Anne’s fictional survival was full of trauma and coping with survivor’s guilt, intense grief, and dealing with the ghosts of her past following her. While we have no way of knowing how Anne would have coped with surviving the Holocaust, I still found this to be a believable interpretation of how she would handle the aftermath. Gillham does a wonderful job taking the foundation of Anne’s diary and research of her life and those who knew her to build a rich story with realistic characters and a war-torn environment. The only thing that threw me off was the awkward pacing of time passing in the novel. Very little time is spent discussing Anne’s time pre-hiding, and then suddenly they’re in hiding, and then suddenly Anne is home, and then the rest of the novel takes its time describing Anne’s difficulties coping with the fact that she and her father are the only ones that who survived. I believe Gillham was trying to build some background as well as illustrate what exactly Anne was missing pre and post hiding in the Annex, but it feels like he is trying to rush to the heart of the novel instead. Despite the pacing, Annelies is a beautiful novel that portrays Anne Frank as a different kind of hero. In her twisted happily ever after, she is fiery and guarded, projecting her story to the world while holding her shame and her grief close to her chest. In the closing lines, the reader leaves this alternate, bittersweet universe behind, aching for the possibility for Anne to have lived beyond the last entry of her diary.

I'm so glad I took a chance on this book. Although I was touched when I read A Diary of a Young Girl and wished Anne's fate had been different, I wasn't sure that alternate history was a good fit for me. As it turned out, this book really moved me. It was a powerful, accurate portrayal of grief, how it can consume and transform, how it can tear apart family and loved ones who grieve differently, but how it can eventually be overcome. The first hundred pages of the book covered key moments in Anne's life before the Annex, while in hiding, and in the camps. The author used these pages effectively, letting us see Anne as the optimistic dreamer she had been, thus showing how utterly affected Anne was by her experience in the camps. This helped me be sympathetic later when she spoke out angrily and hurtfully: I could see that she was letting grief overwhelm her thoughts and feelings. It was also interesting and heartbreaking to see the external hardships the Jews had to deal with as they attempted to return to normal lives. Thank you so much to the First to Read Program for letting me read this before it's publishing date. Once it's released, this is a book I will definitely be purchasing for my own collection.

I wanted to love this one. The story of Anne Frank is a horrifying and heartbreaking story that ended when her life did, all too soon. I’ve read her diary multiple times. In fact; I just finished reading it again a couple weeks ago for a class. I think maybe that’s why I couldn’t connect with this one, because I just spent so much time on what actually happened that trying to replace it with would could have happened, didn’t work for me. It’s possible that I will read this again sometime when it is released, but for now, I couldn’t hang on to the story in the way I wanted to and in the way it deserved. I couldn’t decide if it was honoring her or not, sometimes. Her real story being so fresh in my memory. I wish Anne and her family and so many didn’t have to experience what they did and we hand the chance to say when, not if. But it was not to be. This alternate history will not be for everyone and at this time, it wasn’t for me.

Annelies is a compelling, intense read. I simply couldn't tear myself from it. I was torn for most of the reading, however, in my feelings toward the character of Anne. I felt compassion and empathy for all she endured, but she also annoyed me. Anne spends a great deal of the novel, raging about, as if she was the only one who suffered, and being quite nasty. She does act like the entitled, spoiled, cosseted child her stepmother accuses her of being. The author includes intriguing twists in the story. I applaud him for taking on this incredible task of writing a what if story about Holocaust icon such as Anne Frank. I do wish he author had included a brief bibliography at the end, to share he titles he read and researched.

I am having a hard time finding the words to properly state how I felt about this book. As many of us did, I grew up reading and loving Anne Frank. The premise of this book is that Anne survives the war when Bergen-Belsen is liberated and is reunited with her father Otto. I think it is a really large undertaking to try to write a novel from a person's point of view who is no longer with us and try to comprehend how they would feel based off of their diary. Overall, I think the author did his research very well and the story was well written and he most likely did Anne justice, but how will we ever really know? Often times I felt frustrated with how Anne was portrayed and maybe that is not fair because I don't know her either to say whether it was right or wrong. The novel was moving, heartbreaking and hard to bear at times, but overall very beautiful. I have read a lot of WWII novels, but not many from the perspective of what life was like as survivor afterwards - like how to acclimate to "normal" life after experiencing and seeing so many horrors first hand. It was very haunting, but important to read so that we never forget. Thanks to First to Read for a copy of this book to read and review. All opinions are my own.

Every once in awhile, a book comes along that just takes your breath away...a book that you wish you could give more than five stars...a book that speaks to your deepest feelings. For me. Annelies is one of those rare books. It is so beautifully written that I lived the book with the characters, I felt Anne's pain as well as her anger and confusion after the war. I think its because I read The Diary of Anne Frank at a very impressionable age when it was difficult to read that she had died in the camps. Annelies is based on the premise that Anne survived and is reconciled with her father in Amsterdam after the war. All of the pain from the camps leads to great anger and survivor's guilt when she tries to regain her old life. I must admit that I cried a lot of tears while reading this book. Anne's time in the camps was so physically demeaning and her anger and confusion after the war were so mentally harsh. This was a beautiful, well written and well re-searched novel. Suspend your knowledge that you know Anne didn't survive and read this author's story about what her life could have been like -- you'll be glad that you did. Thanks to First to Read for a copy of this book to read and review. All opinions are my own


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