A few years ago, I went with my pal Katy on a city break to Amsterdam. At the top of our ‘must see’ list (along with every other tourist there!) was a visit to Anne Frank’s house. The lengthy queue was worth the wait as the experience was very moving. Katy and I had also been to Auschwitz on another trip so we left Amsterdam with an even greater understanding of the horrors of being victimised and hunted down by the Nazis.
This period of history has always interested me and so when I recently went on a tour of Stirling University’s art collection I came across their latest exhibition, ‘Anne Frank: A History for Today‘. As part of the programme, the university were offering a free creative writing workshop, ‘Living in Hiding’ so of course I signed up.
Whilst discussing Anne’s diary with the group, it made me think of the theme of feeling trapped and how your home can also be your prison.
I’ve made a tentative start on my next novel which refers to the Seige of Leningrad. Thankfully there’s lots of historical information available as authentic and poignant as Anne’s diary. These documents will help me imagine the reality of not being able to leave your city and suffering starvation, stress and exposure resulting in civilian losses at around 1.1 to 1.3 million.
Being denied freedom is a common theme in books and one that was executed brilliantly by Emma Donoghue in Room. The bestselling book tells of Ma, who has been kidnapped and locked in a room for seven years by “Old Nick”. Ma and Old Nick have a son, Jack who also lives in the room without being able to leave. Ma tells Jack,“Scared is what you’re feeling. Brave is what you’re doing.”
I may reread Room and Anne Frank’s diary as a reminder of how the smallest of worlds can represent the biggest issues.
Have you used source material such as diaries and first-hand accounts to inspire your writing?