ANNE FRANK: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife by Francine Prose

Book Quote:

“I understood, as I could not have as a child, how much art is required to give the impression of artlessness, how much control is necessary in order to seem natural, how almost nothing is more difficult for a writer than to find a narrative voice as fresh and unaffected as Anne Frank’s.”

Book Review:

Review by Eleanor Bukowsky (OCT 1, 2009)

Francine Prose, in Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife, takes a comprehensive look at an individual who, more than six decades after her death, remains an iconic figure all over the world. Prose considers The Diary of Anne Frank to be “the greatest book ever written about a thirteen-year-old girl.” After rereading the diary as an adult, she concludes that it is not merely “the innocent and spontaneous outpourings of a teenager,” but rather “a consciously crafted work of literature,” one that Anne revised thoroughly, hoping to reach a wide audience someday. Between the ages of thirteen and fifteen, Anne developed from a girl into a mature adolescent whose keen self-awareness, understanding of human nature, and moral vision were remarkable in one so young. The author pays homage to Anne’s technique, characterization, detailed descriptive writing, and skillful use of dialogue, all of which contribute to the diary’s widespread appeal.

Anne Frank is divided into four sections: The Life, The Book, The Afterlife, and Anne Frank in the Schools. Prose recounts the events leading up to the Franks’ decision to go into hiding. Otto Frank, his wife, Edith, and their two children, as well as four other people, stayed in the annex for two years and one month. They were helped immeasurably by a compassionate Dutch woman named Miep Gies, who did what she could to make the residents as comfortable as possible. Ultimately, however, someone betrayed them and they all perished, with the exception of Otto Frank. In part two, Prose recounts the genesis of the diary and provides details about Anne’s revisions, Otto Frank’s edits, the controversies that the diary generated, and its reception by the publishing industry. Later, Prose goes on to describe the adaptations of the diary for the stage and screen, the Anne Frank Museum and Foundation in Amsterdam, and the teaching of The Diary of Anne Frank in the classroom.

Anne has become an integral part of the fabric of our lives, and Prose makes a convincing case that the diary is more than just a series of banal reflections jotted down by a precocious youngster. Unfortunately, instead of developing this theme more fully, Prose allows herself to get sidetracked. She dwells too much on peripheral matters, and even devotes a few pages to the Holocaust deniers who claim that Anne’s diary is a fake. The final chapter on how the diary can be taught in the classroom will, unsurprisingly, be of more interest to educators than to the average reader. Francine Prose is to be admired for sharing her well-researched conclusions with us, but her book would have been more cohesive and readable had she not strayed so far afield from her main thesis.

AMAZON READER RATING: from 31 readers
PUBLISHER: Harper (September 29, 2009)
REVIEWER: Eleanor Bukowsky
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Wikipedia page on Francine Prose
EXTRAS: Wall Street Journal interview with Francine Prose about Anne FrankNew York Times review of Anne Frank
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October 1, 2009 В· Judi Clark В· One Comment
Tags: , , , ,  В· Posted in: Non-fiction

One Response

  1. poornima - October 2, 2009

    Wonderful review, Eleanor! I heard Francine Prose on NPR last weekend and it did seem from the interview that what she had to say didn’t really warrant a full-length book. Your review brings out that point and more, beautifully.

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