“Gillham is a powerful storyteller, and Annelies is marbled with spare eloquence that captures the absurdity of life after the camps. . . . A novel that reminds the world to remember Anne Frank is most welcome.” —USA Today
“A haunting what-if.” —Georgia Hunter, New York Times bestselling author of We Were the Lucky Ones
“Not only a poignant reminder of all that was lost during the war, but a vivid, searching exploration of what it meant to exist in the aftermath.” —Jessica Shattuck, New York Times bestselling author of The Women in the Castle
From the author of City of Women, a powerful new novel that asks the question: What if Anne Frank survived the Holocaust?
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.
What if Anne Frank had survived the Holocaust? That's the premise in Gillham's well-researched yet disappointing second novel (after City of Women), which ably depicts Anne's life prior to, during, and immediately following the time her family and others were hiding in the space above her father's workplace. Scenes of the packed train to the concentration camps; the despicable conditions she endured alongside her mother and her sister, Margot, after being separated from her father; and her final days with Margot are all harrowing. What falls short is the portrayal of Anne after she survives and comes home. An angry, guilt-burdened young woman, she hangs on to so much fury that the constant bickering with her father and everyone else in her new life become repetitive. That it takes 300 pages for Anne to learn her father has the precious diary she thought was lost forever is also a distraction. Nevertheless, as Anne comes into her own as the world-famous writer she aspired to be, Gillham skillfully traces her trajectory in handling survivor's guilt, transformed from a person fueled with rage and revenge to one who finally understands she can live her life as fully as she can and honor the dead by using her diary to teach the world about her experiences. It's a noble effort, but this novel never lives up to the promise of its premise.