Everything I have revealed to you here, I am telling you in confidence. I do not want the entire world to know me, or to think they know me. My sister, she can be the face of all the suffering, the one reminding everyone, still now, that it cannot, must not, happen again. That we were real people. This is important, and I am glad her legacy lives on this way, whether her diary was stories, fantasies, reality. I do not know. Perhaps it does not even matter. But me — I do not want a book, or a movie, or even a play. I have a life, and what I want now most is to finally live it.
Jillian Cantor’s Margot gives voice to Margot Frank, older sister to Anne, in a post-Holocaust fantasy imagining Margot’s survival and confrontation with her sister’s legacy as the diary was published and adapted into theatrical and film production in 1950s America. Living under a new name and fabricated identity, the title character unwillingly emerges from the background of The Diary of Anne Frank and forces her audience to reassess its long-held assumptions about the Frank family dynamics and experience in hiding.
Cantor’s background lies primarily in Teen Fiction, and Margot, though told from the perspective of a thirty-three-year-old woman hiding in plain view, reads like a YA novel. The style of writing plays toward the story’s central message: “Margie,” the Gentile persona that Margot Frank has fashioned for herself in Philadelphia, is unable to escape not just her true identity but the adolescence eternalized for her by her memories of the Holocaust. As she faces the print, theater, and film productions of her sister’s famous diary, Margie grapples with teenage feelings of jealousy, rivalry, and romance as though she is back in the secret annex, projecting her complicated relationships with the ghosts of its occupants onto her new, assumed life as a secretary in a legal firm.
Margot is something of a new Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister with an overlying Holocaust narrative — an excellent novel for the much-neglected demographic of young readers transitioning from teen literature to more mature books. The plot lacks subtlety, but magnetic characters and the book’s exploration of the complexities of identity and memory make Margot a compelling read. Cantor, careful to acknowledge the historical inaccuracies with which Margot is laden (and, of course, upon which the premise is based), is perhaps a bit too cautious, straying little from the familiar world of the secret annex and hardly touching upon the Franks’ undocumented experience in Westerbork or Auschwitz. Like Margie, she orbits softly around The Diary of a Young Girl, ceding the storytelling of the Holocaust to the one and only Anne Frank.
Read Jillian Cantor’s Posts for the Visiting ScribeOn Religion and Having Children
Nat Bernstein is the former Manager of Digital Content & Media, JBC Network Coordinator, and Contributing Editor at the Jewish Book Council and a graduate of Hampshire College.