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A Reader of Fictions: Imagine - John Lennon

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Imagine - John Lennon


Author: Sharon Dogar
Genre: historical fiction
Pages: 328
ARC Acquired From: Houghton Mifflin booth at ALA 2010

Brief Summary:
Dogar writes of the time the Franks and van Pels' spent hiding in the annex in Holland from the perspective of Peter van Pels, the boy who loved Anne Frank (so the cover proclaims). The story follows Peter from just before his entry into the annex up to his death, right around the time of the liberation. The novel suggests that Anne Frank may not have been quite how she portrayed herself in her diary.

I have read a few memoirs and fictitious accounts about the Holocaust, including The Diary of Anne Frank, although I read that some time in middle school, or possibly even late in elementary school. Dogar's book intrigued me, but I had no great expectations going into it.

Her portrayal of Peter van Pels is as a confused, hormonal, depressed, not all that intelligent boy. At the outset of the novel, he is obsessed with a girl named Liese, who he dreams of and mourns after he enters the annex; her being taken away was almost the last thing he saw before entering the hidden area behind the book case. His love for her dwindles over time, as Ann ages and time passes. Reading the section on their romance reminded me vaguely of Romeo and Juliet, what with their both having had prior love interests (at least in the novel) and their fates being doomed from the start. Their interactions felt awkward and not particularly loving. What I cannot say is whether that was intentional, meant to be indicative of the fact that their emotions were driven primarily by hormones, close quarters and the stress of not knowing how long they would live, or whether they were intended to be perceived as some legendary thwarted romance as the cover blurb would seem to suggest.

The writing is simple throughout, probably pretty easy to comprehend for reluctant readers or children transitioning to teen books. The story does go back and forth from Peter on his death bed to the memories of earlier times. This is however not confusing, as the times in the bast are written in regular font and death-bed Peter's thoughts are italicized.

The second part of the book, which describes briefly the experience getting to and living (if it can rightly be called so) in the camps. While I know why she included this, I am not entirely sure it added much to the story. Maybe it did, and I do not know if one can write a story about the Holocaust without including that. Either way, I did not particularly care for most of the section, since it was essentially a repetition of what memoirs have expressed about the camps. Although perhaps it is more accessible for younger people this way. (Can you tell I haven't quite made up my mind?) The one thing I found interesting from here was the emphasis on the terrible things that Peter had to do to survive in the camp, just as a regular prisoner, not as an overseer or anything.

Annexed may not be my idea of perfection, but it did make me want to reread Anne Frank's diary, so that's something. To conclude are some lyrics from the title song, which I think are quite in sync with Peter's opinions, as held in this historical imagining:

"Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace."

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Blogger Gina said...

Interesting post! I have this one coming up for a read/review very soon and as soon as I read about the book I instantly thought...must reread Anne Frank's Diary! Thanks for sharing your reading adventure...and happy reading!

October 14, 2010 at 1:53 PM  

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