Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #35: Margot

I received this book for free from BEA in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #35: MargotMargot by Jillian Cantor
Published by Riverhead on September 3, 2013
Genres: Alternate History, Historical
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: BEA
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four-half-stars

Anne Frank has long been a symbol of bravery and hope, but there were two sisters hidden in the annex, two young Jewish girls, one a cultural icon made famous by her published diary and the other, nearly forgotten.

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.

Recommended by: Shae (Shae Has Left the Room)

Though World War II era fiction of just about any sort has a high level of appeal for me, I’m wary of these “what if?” stories. It seems there are so many ways in which they could go wrong. In this case, I needn’t have worried, however, for Jillian Cantor handles this subject matter respectfully, beautifully, and cleverly.

Jillian Cantor’s Margot has a slow pace, but her writing and close examination of Margot as a character keeps the story from feeling slow. Particularly effective in the writing was Cantor’s use of metaphor. She uses the perfect ones, metaphors that fit Margot’s life and experiences, that really help make her voice feel true and unlike any other’s.

I am good at keeping secrets. I am wrapped in them now, the way I am wrapped in lies, like my sweater, clinging tightly to my skin, even on the hottest of days.

I love this quote, because it really speaks to Margot’s life now: sequestered, bundled, hidden, and secretive. Though Margot, now living in Philadelphia as the gentile Margie Franklin, survived, escaped from the Nazis, in some ways her life has not changed from the Annex. More accurately, she has not changed; mentally, she remains there, quiet and afraid of discovery.

Margie Franklin lives a quiet life, avoiding notice and working at a law firm as a secretary. Shelby, her coworker, throws Margie into a psychological tailspin when she invites her to go to the movies to see The Diary of Anne Frank. The existence of the book and now the movie force Margie, a case brought in to the law firm by a woman who survived the camps, and her crush on her boss, Joshua Rosenstein are forcing Margie to decide whether to confront her identity or to continue to hide.

Margie’s fear and guilt and discomfort seep out of every page. I really felt for her, and thought she was lovingly and kindly portrayed. One element of Margie’s narration that I especially loved was how un-American she was, how she struggled with understanding certain things about American lives. She has a foreign way of thinking that fits the way she’s not left the past behind, as do her issues with food. The integration of this reimagining of history is convincingly done as well, making the idea that she could have survived seem entirely possible.

The romance I’m rather of two minds about. Though Joshua’s obviously a nice guy, the decisions he make made it hard for me to really root for Joshua and Margie to actually become a couple. The resolution also felt a bit too sudden and like Margot’s mental breakthrough happened largely because of romance, though I’m not sure if that’s fair, as it was the culmination of many factors. Still, I don’t know if she would have gotten so far so quickly were she not under the pressure of possibly losing Joshua forever.

Margot is a truly beautiful novel, both dark and inspiring at once. Cantor writes beautifully, capturing the spirit of a woman trapped in her past and unsure whether she really deserves a happy future. I highly recommend this to those who enjoy thoughtful, character-focused historical fiction.

Favorite Quote:

I should begin with the simplest of truths: I am alive.
You might wonder how this is the simplest of truths, when you have thought me dead—when the entire world has thought me dead—for so very long. But this, I promise you, is really quite simple in light of all the rest of it. I breathe, and sometimes I eat and sometimes I sleep. But every morning, again, when I wake up, I find myself still breathing. Simple. Really, it is nothing more than science.


Up Next:

Ruby Red - Kerstin Gier

Debby (Snuggly Oranges) has decreed that the time has come for me to read Kerstin Gier’s trilogy, and, conveniently, I have an ARC of the third book Emerald Green on hand, so I’ve got to start today to get through all three of them in time for the release. Check back this afternoon for the review of Ruby Red!

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3 responses to “Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #35: Margot”

  1. Alessandra says:

    Yes! Do review the Gems trilogy! I found it quite delightful. It’s good that you already have the three books at hand. This trilogy actually appears to be one long book split in three for marketing purposes, and let me tell you, it was very frustrating to have to wait for the second/third book to come out. I read the secondo book in Spanish and the third in German – then again in Italian when it came out.
    Alessandra recently posted…Book Blitz: Leap of Faith by Jamie BlairMy Profile

  2. Jenn says:

    I hadn’t heard of this book before your review, but I’m very intrigued by it. Great review 🙂

  3. I first heard about this book a few weeks ago and found myself to be very intrigued. I agree there is a chance that rewriting the fates of historical figures can be done poorly (or even feel like it’s taking advantage of others), so that’s wonderful to hear you didn’t find that to be the case here. I haven’t even read The Diary of Anne Frank yet, actually, so perhaps reading that and then a fictionalized, happier version of her sister’s life would be the way to go.
    Amanda @ Late Nights with Good Books recently posted…Review: The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie BuchananMy Profile

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