Biographer Melissa Muller drew on exclusive interviews with family and friends, on previously unavailable correspondence, and on missing diary pages that she discovered to create a nuanced portrait of her famous subject.Read more...
Biographer Melissa Muller drew on exclusive interviews with family and friends, on previously unavailable correspondence, and on missing diary pages that she discovered to create a nuanced portrait of her famous subject.
Full of revelations, Muller's richly textured narrative returned Anne Frank to history, portraying the flesh-and-blood girl unsentimentalized and so all the more affecting.
In the decade since the book appeared, much new information has come to light: letters sent by Otto Frank to relatives in America as he sought to save his family, the identity of other suspects involved in the betrayal of the Franks, and important details about the family's arrest and subsequent fate. Revised and updated, this is an indispensable volume for all those who seek a deeper understanding of Anne Frank and the brutal times in which she lived and died.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-04-08
- Reviewer: Staff
When she first read Anne Frank’s diary, Müller (Lost Lives, Lost Art) was 13, the same age as Anne was when she went into hiding. Before being sent to her death at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, Anne spent 25 months furtively penning one of the most powerful documents of the Holocaust, but it was not until 1947 that her father, Otto, finally published his daughter’s work. Müller’s biography of the young girl and her at-once intimate and universal missives has also long been a work in progress. The book was originally published in 1998, but this expanded edition takes into account diary entries that had previously been redacted by Anne’s father, as well as recently discovered letters from Otto to relatives in the United States and unpublished documents provided to Müller during interviews with those who knew Anne and her family—including Miep Gies, one of those responsible for hiding the Franks and preserving the diary after its author had perished. In addition to fleshing out her subject, Müller investigates who was responsible for outing the family and what happened to Anne during the eight months between her last diary entry and her death at the age of 16. This nuanced and valuable supplement to Anne’s diary eschews idealization, providing a fuller picture of a vibrant, willful, and soul-searching young woman. 42 b&w photos & family trees. (June)
Between the lines of Anne Frank's diary
Like millions of American children, I read and reread Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl, mesmerized by the journal of her two years spent in hiding from the Nazis. Yet the book always remained somewhat cryptic for my young mind: What exactly was an “annex”? Why did Anne and her sister Margot call their father Pim? If Anne was German, why did she live in Holland?
Reading Anne Frank: The Biography, then, was something of a revelation. Melissa Müller’s updated biography includes new letters and information not yet public when she originally published it in 1998. She delves into the Franks’ lives before German occupation, painting a portrait of a happy, ordinary family: Otto and Edith Frank were doting parents who sought the best education for their girls. Margot was the studious, pretty older sister. Anne was the tempestuous attention-seeker who loved movies and spending time with her girlfriends.
Müller also traces in heartbreaking detail Otto Frank’s increasingly desperate attempts to save his family as the threat of Nazi Germany became clear: first moving to Amsterdam, then seeking to emigrate to the United States, and finally stowing away in the back area of his business’ warehouse.
Müller wisely doesn’t recount in much detail the Franks’ time in the annex—there simply isn’t much to add to Anne’s thorough diary—choosing instead to analyze Anne’s insightful writing and add context where needed. She also devotes considerable space to the question of who might have told the authorities about the hidden Jews at 263 Prinsengracht. This is, unfortunately, a question that may ultimately go unanswered.
Anne Frank has become such a global symbol that it’s easy to forget she was a real girl. Müller’s meticulous research and humane writing remind us that when she should have been exploring her world and coming into her own, the teenage Anne was not allowed to even open a window or move freely for fear of warehouse workers hearing her footsteps. Yet not even nightly air raids and the constant threat of being discovered could break her spirit. “I shall not remain insignificant,” she wrote on April 11, 1944, just months before her family was discovered (Anne died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in March 1945). “I shall work in the world for mankind.”