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Reading any book fiction or non about the Holocaust is, of course, a bleak experience. But listening to a book about the Holocaust is something else entirely. And so it goes with Annexed, a young adult novel by the British writer Sharon Dogar, which reimagines the Anne Frank story from the perspective of the doomed teen’s crush, Peter Van Pels. Here, it’s 16-year-old Peter who keeps the diary, chronicling the two years spent hiding from the Nazis in an Amsterdam attic with his parents and the Frank family; the last section of the book is devoted to his tragic fate at Mauthausen, a Nazi death camp in Austria.
Emotions and sometimes hormones run high in this novel, and narrator Oliver Wyman nails it. He’s not just narrating; he’s emoting, and, with his vague, lilting European accent, he delivers one convincing performance as the confused 16-year-old Peter. (Other characters in the book are performed by a full cast.) From his initial resistance to the precocious Anne to realizing that he’s falling in love with her, there isn’t a doubt we’re listening to a smart, gentle, and thoughtful young man. More haunting is when his story moves to the camp, and he relates, in heartbreaking detail, the cruelty inflicted on the Jews. As his body gets weaker, so too does his voice, until it’s barely a whisper.
A flurry of controversy swirled around Annexed upon its release, with critics accusing Dogar of exploiting both Anne Frank’s legacy and that of Peter Van Pels, who was, of course, a real person. Regardless of how you view Dogar’s intentions, the effect of her efforts is the same: a reimagining that takes the well-known story of Anne Frank and enriches it by bringing alive the boy who we all know died too soon. Jaime Buerger
Earphones Award Winner (AudioFile Magazine)
Most of us know about Anne Frank and her life hiding in the secret annex; but what about the boy, Peter van Pels, who hid with her?
In Annexed, Sharon Dogar imagines Peter’s life. What was it like being forced into hiding with Anne Frank, first hating her and then falling in love with her? Especially with their parents watching almost everything they did together. To know Anne was writing about you in her diary, day after day? What was it like to start questioning your religion, wondering why simply being Jewish inspired such hatred and persecution? Or to just sit and wait and watch while others died, and wish you were fighting? As Peter and Anne became closer and closer in their confined quarters, how did they make sense of what they saw happening around them?
Anne's diary ends on August 4, 1944, but Peter's story takes us beyond and into the Nazi death camps. He details with accuracy, clarity, and compassion the day-to-day survival in Auschwitz, and the horrific fates of the annex's occupants.
This powerful story is read by an incredibly talented cast of narrators: Oliver Wyman, Eileen Stevens, Suzanne Toren, Joe Barrett, Rachel Butera, Marc Vietor, Gabra Zackman, Elisabeth Rodgers, Jeremy Gage, Peter Ganim, Jay Snyder, and L. J. Ganser.
I think this is a great book. It is historical fiction, but it shows a male side of the heavily female originals (Anne Frank, Rutka Laskier and such). I have read some complaints that Dogar did not treat the individuals of the Annex with respect, but in fact I would say she was kinder to them than Anne was herself. I would say this is strongly a PG-13 book, but I think it would be much easier for young males to identify with.
The second part of the book is disturbing, but powerful. Not for the faint of heart, but I would suggest anyone who is interested in looking into the darkness that was the holocaust read this book.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
This story was remarkable! I loved that there was a full cast of narrators, so each character had his or her own unique voice. Anne Frank's story is well known, so it was interesting to hear the scenario from someone else's perspective. Of course, considering the setting, there are depressing moments in the story, but there are also lighthearted scenes to be enjoyed. I would recommend listening to this book. You won't regret it!
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Some books are just good....this is one such book. I really enjoyed listening to it. Thanks to Audible for having this in store.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
This story was a great addition to those who would like to understand the lives of the Franks and their friends better. At times, the story read like a romance novel. Of course, this was written about a teenage boy, but it could have spent less time discussing his sexual fantasies. Overall, I think that the author did a great job demonstrating the multi-faceted lives of her characters. The narrator did a very good job along with the rest of the cast. My only complaint is that he seemed a bit broody. But again, this was about a teenage boy.
Would you try another book from Sharon Dogar and/or the narrators?
How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?
Not sure. Either a book grabs you or it doesn't. I had to rewind a lot and re-listen so it did not suck me it. Overall not bad just not a real page turner for me.
Was Annexed worth the listening time?
If you have a lot of it.