In her Diary , Anne Frank gave her best friend the nickname Jopie, and that has allowed van Maarsen to keep her identity secret so long: I didn't want to be special because my friend had died in the camps, she says. It is that simple self-effacement that makes this memoir, translated from the Dutch, special. Yes, memoir. Unlike the many fictionalized Diary spin-offs, this is a true story with a candid, intimate view of Anne: ebullient, idealistic, very demanding, jealous, curious about sex, secular: she did always love being the center of attention. The girls met in the Jewish school in Amsterdam. They felt the Nazi menace but never dreamed of what would come. Just as gripping is the detail of what happened to van Maarsen's half-Jewish family, including her conversion to Judaism and then the desperate undoing of that conversion that allowed her to survive. After the war, Otto Frank shared the Diary with her, and they talked about what Anne had said. The girls’ parallel lives then and the history we know now raise the heartbreaking question, What if?
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Born in 1929, the author, like her middle-school friend Anne Frank, enjoyed a well-ordered and comfortable childhood, and was the younger child of a pair of sisters. Unlike Anne, who had immigrated with her Jewish parents to the Netherlands, van Maarsen was born there to a Dutch Jewish father and a French Catholic mother. At her mother's insistence, however, she and her sister became registered members of Amsterdam's Jewish community, in 1938. Van Maarsen encompasses the story of her friendship with and loss of Anne Frank with accounts of her own mother's immigration and her father's postwar experiences, but it is the story of that friendship, and the contrast between what happened to Anne and what happened to Jacqueline that will draw in teens. Black-and-white snapshots clearly show both girls' middle-class lives as well as van Maarsen's postwar re-meeting of Anne's father. The author is a quiet writer but she shows clearly the role that fate played in the Final Solution.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CACopyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Called "Jopie" in Anne's published diary, a childhood friend recalls her family's history as it intersected with the Franks' before, during and after the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. Anne Frank does not appear until page 76, when the author recalls seeing after school one day in 1941 "a short, skinny girl with shiny black hair and rather sharp features." The two quickly became friends, despite their differences: Jacqueline was reserved and conservative, while Anne was much more aggressive, frisky and curious about boys and sex. Van Maarsen remembers their many hours together playing ping-pong, watching rented movies, sleeping over, playing Monopoly, gossiping about classmates and film stars. One of the strongest moments here is her description of a visit to the Franks' house immediately after their "departure." (As the family intended, she believed they had fled to Switzerland and did not learn until after the war that they had been hiding in the secret annex of Otto Frank's business). Van Maarsen saw Anne's unmade bed, her new shoes lying on the floor, the entire house uncharacteristically unkempt, the breakfast dishes not yet washed. But Anne's story consumes a small percentage of the pages here; it's sandwiched between two long passages about the author's French Catholic mother and Dutch Jewish father. The van Maarsens escaped deportation and murder only because of the mother's Aryan status: She pulled strings to cancel the children's registration as Jews, and her husband was permitted to remove his yellow star upon providing a (false) affidavit that he'd been sterilized. None of them knew the fate of the Franks until Otto returned after the war; it was not long thereafter thathe and the author learned of his two daughters' deaths at Bergen-Belsen. Anne Frank enthusiasts will wish for more about her, but van Maarsen offers valuable testimony about the particular tensions and horrors her own family endured.