By Jillian Cantor
It’s 14 years after the Second World War, and Anne Frank’s older sister, Margot, is a legal secretary in Philadelphia. Clearly, we’re talking about fiction. Margot and Anne died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1944, as the world knows. Margot’s diary was never recovered, so author Jillian Cantor wrote this nervy book to honour Margot’s lost voice.
Cantor imagines that both Frank sisters, not just Anne, loved Peter Pelt, their fellow captive in the annex, and that Margot and Peter dreamed of emigrating to the City of Brotherly Love, where they’d change their names and pose as gentiles from Poland. When the Hollywood film about her family is released in Philadelphia, “Margie Franklin” is rattled, wondering what her father did with her diary. In a Sophie’s Choice moment, Margie imagines the book publishers making her father choose between his two daughters’ diaries for publication. Cantor does a wonderful job conjuring the girls’ sibling rivalry, going so far as to have Margie accuse Anne of plagiarizing her diary. The flashbacks crackle with jealousy.
This book is a well-intentioned gift to the memory of Margot Frank, but readers may wonder if the narrative lives up to its iconic back story. Margie Franklin is sketched a little too thinly, defined primarily by survivor’s guilt. Ironically, the best parts of the book are Margie’s internal monologues about Anne. Once again, New World Margie takes a back seat to her famous sister.