Jillian Cantor has taken Anne Frank’s Diary of A Young Girl and written an alternate fiction in which Margot, Anne’s older sister, did not die in Bergen-Belsen after all. Instead, she survives and makes her way to Philadelphia. But, in a way, she is still in hiding. Margot has changed her name, hidden her Jewish faith, and buried herself in her quiet daily work at a law firm. She doesn’t tell anyone that she is related to the famous Anne Frank.
There has been some controversy around the publication of this novel. TIME Magazine asks, “How can an artist “borrow” from the life of a real person?” Cantor makes a good point in response — for all that’s been written about Anne over the years, and for all the adaptations of her diary, very little has been written about Margot. Cantor felt that hers was a story she “needed to tell.”
On a completely different, much lighter note, we offer a review of Joanna Trollope‘s “contemporary reworking” of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. In a way, the book cover image says it all. For more, listen to Trollope talk about the novel.
This is the first in The Austen Project — in which six contemporary novelists have been asked to re-imagine Jane Austen’s six novels. Next up? Val McDermid’s reworking of Northanger Abbey in Spring 2014 and Curtis Sittenfeld’s Pride & Prejudice in Autumn 2014.
Adult/High School–What if Anne Frank’s sister, Margo, had escaped the Nazis before arriving at the concentration camp that killed Anne and the rest of her family? What if she made her way to America and through luck and perseverance became known as Margie Franklin, a gentile Polish immigrant working as a legal secretary in Philadelphia? When the book opens, Margie Franklin is at the office, living a typical American day. But she mostly keeps to herself, and while her disguise fools her handsome and caring boss, Joshua, when he suggests setting up a class-action suit for Jews suffering from racism, she is certain that someone who lived through a similar past might guess her deepest–and most guilty–secret. Alternative-history novels pique interest and allow readers to imagine, What if things had gone differently? What would today look like? Teens who have just completed Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl, or who are fascinated by the Holocaust, will find much to absorb them in this quiet, introspective novel. Margie suffers greatly from the terrors of the past, and readers will root for her as each discovery about life in America causes her to confront her dark secret and allows her to slowly accept the past and move forward.–Connie Williams, Petaluma High School, CA
Adult/High School–Trollope transports Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility to the year 2013. The plot doesn’t change all that much, but the characters live in the modern world, texting and tweeting and driving cars. This classic coming-of-age story stars two sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, who could not be more different. Marianne is all passion and idealism, while Elinor is the practical one. When their father dies, leaving the estate to his son, they (along with their mother, Belle, and youngest sister, Margaret) are kicked out of their beautiful home by his wife, Fanny, (heartless as always) and forced to find another situation. They move to Barton Cottage on the estate of Sir John Middleton (here a clothing manufacturer), where they must live on less than 700 pounds a month. Fortunately, Elinor finds an assistant position at an architectural firm. Marianne suffers from acute asthma, which threatens her life twice. Once she is saved by the gorgeous young John Willoughby, the second time by steady, good Bill Brandon, who only comes to her attention after she is thrown over by Willoughby for a woman of means. (Here, Bill has transformed Delaford into a home for veterans struggling with addiction.) Fanny’s brother Edward must extricate himself from an unfortunate engagement to a gold-digger in order to be with Elinor. Love and money, passion and decorum–the story’s themes and conflicts translate perfectly well into the 21st century in this delightful retelling.–Angela Carstensen, Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City