The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank

  • Review
By – August 10, 2012

The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank is a grip­ping sto­ry recast­ing the life of Peter van Dann, the Dutch teen who was in hid­ing with Anne Frank. Feld­man asks what would have hap­pened had Peter lived on and escaped the death camps of Nazi Ger­many. This book has Peter com­ing to Amer­i­ca in the 1950’s and re-invent­ing him­self. He is Peter van Pels, a non-Jew, mar­ried to a Jew, father of three chil­dren, a man with a num­ber on his arm from the DP camps, and a cir­cum­cised penis. Peter can­not escape his past: he is tor­ment­ed by flash­backs and mem­o­ries that sur­face when The Diary of Anne Frank is pub­lished, becomes an instant best­seller and is turned into a Broad­way play. As Peter begins to tack­le his demons, the truth of his inner world sur­faces, and he finds that he is in fact the Peter described by Anne Frank, the boy she came to love while they were in hid­ing togeth­er in the attic in Ams­ter­dam. With the flood­gates of his mem­o­ry over­flow­ing, Peter’s own life takes many turns as he re-exam­ines him­self and his place in the world as a Jew, a father and a hus­band. Ulti­mate­ly, accept­ing him­self as the Peter in Anne’s diary, he must live out his life being true to the real­i­ty of Anne, fac­ing his respon­si­bil­i­ties to tell the sto­ry as it hap­pened for the sake of his father and mother.

Feld­man is a mas­ter at inter­weav­ing fact with fic­tion, cre­at­ing a mag­i­cal sto­ry both provoca­tive and full of sus­pense. Par­tic­u­lar­ly strik­ing is the author’s atten­tion to detail. She makes a sto­ry told repeat­ed­ly seem fresh and new, as the mem­o­ries from that time are kept vibrant­ly alive.

Bar­bara S. Cohen is a tri­al attor­ney in Los Ange­les who spe­cial­izes in child abuse cas­es. She is a mem­ber of NAMI and a sup­port­er of NARSAD, and is an advo­cate for those who suf­fer from men­tal illness.

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