What Prose has written is a corrective to these adaptations. She details the background of the Frank family. She explains the relationships between the families hidden in the attic and their "helpers"—the Dutch friends who kept them supplied with the necessities of life. She illustrates what life was like in Amsterdam when the Nazis, took over, and Otto Frank's attempts to get his family out of the country.
She tells us what happened to them all after they were discovered. She hones in on Anne's death at Bergen-Belsen, just a few days before the liberation. In a world where Holocaust-deniers can still manage to find a receptive audience, this portion of her book is a worthwhile corrective.
The major portion of the book deals with the diary itself. There is the story of the trials and tribulations involved in its publication first abroad and then in the United States. And trials and tribulations there were aplenty: vituperative back biting, law suits, broken friendships. Prose explains it all. More important, perhaps, is her critical attention to the writing of the diary. A writer herself, she is well suited to analyze and explain what Anne's revisions of her work revealed both about her intentions as well as her artistic growth. Her conclusion, admirably argued, is that Anne's diary as revised is a conscious work of art, and should in fact be treated as such.
The age of the author need not negate the artistic merit of a work. Here is Prose: "As a boy of five, Mozart was already composing, Keats was dead at twenty-six. Maturity and creativity are unpredictable over a lifetime, and the early appearance of genius frequently obliges us to rethink our preconceived notions of age."
Prose's discussions of the various adaptations tend to be dismissive. None of them, despite their popular success, ever capture the essential greatness she finds in the book itself. Perhaps the adaptation that comes closest to doing justice to Anne's work according to Prose is the 1997 revision by Wendy Kesselman. But even here there were problems. Moreover she is uniformly unhappy with the actresses—Susan Strasberg, Millie Perkins, Natalie Portman—who played Anne in her various incarnations.
Lovers of Anne Frank's diary will find in Prose's book a useful companion filled with critical insight and a fund of information. For the casual reader, it may be a case of more information than you really wanted.