I’ve spent a few minutes catching up on the utterly stellar content provided by some of the truly talented bloggers that I’m fortunate enough to follow, and came across ‘The mistakes I have made’ posted by Julia Golding onto the blog Girls Heart Books., dealing with the subject of, “Have you ever read a book and noticed a major mistake, something like the hero’s eye colour changing mid way or a historical fact being wrong…?“
It’s a great topic, covering the matter of being deeply engrossed in your chosen book for that day/week, and suddenly – like a slap to the face – getting hit by the thought that, “Hang a mo’, surely that can’t be right,” and being unable to concentrate, finding yourself furiously flipping back through the book until you find the offending item and realising that yes, both author and proof-reader have made an epic booboo.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the most observant of people, and know that I’m going to make a completely useless Mum from a detective point of view as I lack the skill that my own sweet MotherShip has of walking into a room and within 2 seconds being able to do a 180° sweep of the surroundings and immediately pinpoint an object of wrongdoing. My kids are going to be rolling joints and snorting lines of coke, with naked girlfriends/boyfriends writhing on the bed, as I obliviously stand in their doorway, wrapped in my floral apron and saying, “Come on darlings, meatloaf’s ready, hurry down.”
Therefore I get lost in a good book, completely absorbed, caught up in the story and, at particularly tense moments, have been guilty of flipping ahead a few paragraphs to ensure that the hero lives and with relief still my beating heart.
However, one mistake has stayed with me for over 15-years and is the foundation for my utter suspicion of the authenticity of a certain book widely circulated in British schools (or at least was in my day – oh sweet mother, I can’t believe I actually used the phrase ‘in my day’. That’s it, it’s bingo nights, purple rinses and carrying around a coin purse from here on out) as part of the curriculum reading material.
The Diary of Anne Frank. Renowned as the translation of a Dutch-language diary that bears tribute to the horrors of the Holocaust, it is a book that is both horrific and funny, capturing the personality of a young girl and her family evading Nazi German persecution, living in a secret area hidden by a bookcase.
This simple red and checked book begins on June 12th 1942 and ends on August 1st 1944, covering the 2-years and one month that Anne and her family were in hiding, and is filled with the bitter sweet irony of the reader , due to the story being so widely-known, being aware all along that there is no happy ending, no knight in shining armour, no surprise escape.
Due to the closeness of her and her family’s confinement with other individuals and families, the relationships formed are at times intense.
Anne eventually develops romantic feelings for the only eligible person confined with her, one Peter van Daan that she refers to as ‘Petel’..
My issue with this book is due to a handful of paragraphs:
1) “I was helping him, and we soon wound up sitting across from each other at his table, Peter on the chair and me on the divan. It gave me a wonderful feeling when I looked into his dark blue eyes and saw how bashful my unexpected visit had made him.”
2) “Peter was the ideal boy: tall, good-looking and slender, with a serious, quiet and intelligent face. He had dark hair, beautiful brown eyes, ruddy cheeks and a nicely pointed nose.“
3) “Peter’s eyes suddenly met mine, and I stared for a long time into those velvety brown eyes…I woke up, still feeling his cheek against mine and his brown eyes staring deep into my heart, so deep that he could read how much I’d loved him and how much I still do.“
I know that we can argue all day about the Dutch word for blue being blauw and the Dutch word for brown being bruin, two similar words that could have been mistranslated in error, and yet reading that book as a young teenage girl having to deal with a mother-load of hormones, I was hit by the certainty that no one so incredibly in love could get the eye colour of their object of affection so ridiculously wrong.
That feeling of wrongness stayed with me for the rest of my life and, despite the truly tragic story that The Diary of a Young Girl/The Diary of Anne Frank tells and which has touched so many lives, young and old, I have forever been unable to shake off my suspicions. If someone can get such a small yet vital detail wrong, then what else could be wrong? If a love-struck love girl would remember the colour of her confined beloved’s eyes, then who wrote her Diary?