Friday, September 6, 2013
In the spring of 1959, The Diary of Anne Frank has just come to the silver screen to great acclaim, and a young woman named Margie Franklin is working in Philadelphia as a secretary at a Jewish law firm. On the surface she lives a quiet life, but Margie has a secret: a life she once lived, a past and a religion she has denied, and a family and a country she left behind.
Margie Franklin is really Margot Frank, older sister of Anne, who did not die in Bergen-Belsen as reported, but who instead escaped the Nazis for America. But now, as her sister becomes a global icon, Margie’s carefully constructed American life begins to fall apart. A new relationship threatens to overtake the young love that sustained her during the war, and her past and present begin to collide. Margie is forced to come to terms with Margot, with the people she loved, and with a life swept up into the course of history. -- Riverhead
One of the books I was most excited about reading this fall is MARGOT by Jillian Cantor. I actually picked up a copy of this novel at this year's BEA, and then I was fortunate enough to meet the author and her editor at the Penguin Bash. Like many of you, I remember reading THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK as a girl (many times I might add), and I thought a novel about what happened to Anne's sister Margot was a very intriguing idea.
MARGOT is the fictional account of what happened to Margot after she escaped from the Nazis and moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It takes place in 1959, the year when the movie The Diary of Anne Frank was released; and Margot (who know goes by the Americanized Margie) is working as a legal secretary at a Jewish law firm. Not only has Margot created a new name, but she has also denied her Jewish religion. She has told no one that she she is a survivor of the concentration camps (she even hides her tattoo with a sweater) or that she's Anne Frank's sister; and living this secret life is starting to take its toll on Margot.
I really enjoyed MARGOT! I read it in the span of a day and I even stayed up late to finish it. (I can't really say that I've done that in awhile!) I found that I was fascinated by Margot's story. Not just because I was curious to see how she escaped from the Nazis and ended up in America, although I did find that interesting. Rather, I loved how the author portrayed Margot and all of the complexities associated with trying to live a secret life.
One of the things that I loved about this book was how well Ms. Cantor brought Margot's character to life for me. Granted, there isn't a lot out there about Margot aside from Anne's references to her sister in her diary (Margot's diary was never found), so the author was able to take liberties with her story; however, I was impressed with how real Margot became for me. My heart broke for her over and over again because she was such a sad character, and I actually could almost feel the guilt she was living with concerning what happened to her sister and the role she played in it.
I admit it took me awhile to truly relate to Margot because she seemed a little distant, but I think that might have been the author's intent. At the beginning of the novel, Margot was doing a pretty good job of living her secret life and keeping to herself. As Margot begins to have more interactions with her boss and coworker, things begin to unravel for her; and as a result, I felt as if I got to understand her more especially concerning the way she was conflicted about her past and present merging.
In addition, I really liked how MARGOT showcased a variety of different family relationships. This book explored not only a complex relationship between Margot and Anne, but also the dynamics of various parent/child relationships. I loved how Margot and Anne's relationship was portrayed, including the normal jealousy and sibling rivalry, but I also enjoyed seeing how Margot felt about her father and his decision to publish Anne's diary instead of her own.
At the end of the novel, in the author's note, Ms. Cantor does a fabulous job of explaining what went into writing this novel. Not only does she show the reader just how much the book and Margot's (and Anne's) story mean to her, but she also outlines exactly what was fact versus fiction. It was apparent that she did a lot of research before she sat down to tell Margot's story. She began with the big assumption that Margot didn't die of typhus in the concentration camp; however, I believe Ms. Cantor did her best to create a story that was true to the few facts that are available about Margot's life. As a reader, I just appreciate that she shared this information with us.
MARGOT would make a fantastic book club selection... especially if read in tandem with THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK. My daughter is reading THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK in high school this year, and I couldn't help but think that MARGOT might be a great selection for our mother/daughter book club. There is a reading guide available with twelve thought-provoking questions. Some of the themes you might want to explore include sister relationships, jealousy, parent/child relationships, fear, trust, second chances, memory, religion, secrets, guilt, and forgiveness.
Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.