Rating: 5 / 5
It is the late 1950s, and Margie Franklin is a legal secretary at a Philadelphia law firm. She is extremely quiet and shy, and has few acquaintances. No one in Philadelphia knows Margie’s true identity, which is Margot Frank, older sister of Anne Frank. Everyone assumed she had perished alongside her sister in the concentration camps, but she had actually escaped, living with her mother’s friend Eduard for years before emigrating to the United States. Not only does Margot hide her name, but she has also hidden her past, as well as the tattooed number on her arm identifying her as a survivor of the concentration camps. The Diary of Anne Frank has just been released and is on the forefront of everyone’s mind. Margot must figure out how to juggle keeping her identity a secret amongst the fanfare and critical acclaim of the film, while navigating a budding relationship.
I loved Margot from the very first chapter. It is moving and sad, but at the same time there is hope and a ray of light. Cantor effortlessly blends the past with the present; she moves seamlessly between the time when the Franks were hiding in the annex and present day, and the struggles Margot faces each day. When Bryda Korzynski enters Margot’s life, looking for help from Margot’s boss Joshua, Margot is confronted with conflicting feelings and emotions. On the one hand, she has spent years hiding her true identity, hoping to blend into her surroundings and draw attention away from herself. On the other hand, people like Bryda are demanding equal justice for Jews and are fighting against anti-Semitism, and Bryda has made her contempt of Margot’s secret known.
To me, the bigger and more emotional subplot is Margot’s journey to find Peter Pelt. Peter and his family hid with the Franks in the annex, and Peter vowed to move to Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, when the war ended, and reunite with Margot. Against all odds, Margot survived the concentration camps and made it to Philadelphia, and at the beginning, the weekly calls to the operator resulted in no Peter Pelts living in the city. Margot has all but given up on finding Peter, but with the release of The Diary of Anne Frank, Margot spontaneously dials the operator, who tells her that there is now a listing for a P. Pelt in the city. After so many years of holding out hope, Margot is unsure whether she can take another step and reach out to P. Pelt.
While Margot is revisionist history, it is immensely compelling and moving. With Margot, Cantor tackles issues regarding identity, assimilation, love, and forgiveness. Margot emotionally packs a punch, and I think it is brilliant that Cantor wrote a novel from Margot’s point of view, for she is often the forgot sister, the one constantly in her younger sister’s immortal legacy. I highly recommend this book, and also recommend that it is read on a free afternoon, for you’re not going to want to put it down once you pick it up.