“The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition” by Anne Frank

Inspired by reading friends at In Our Study, I recently read Francine Prose’s Anne Frank: The Book, the Life, the Afterlife. I thought it was a fascinating, compelling close reading of Anne Frank’s life and her diary, which in turn made me excited to read/re-read The Diary of a Young Girl.

I remember reading it at age 10, in grade 5, for a book report about a famous person*. I think I’d read it before that, at least once. I loved Anne’s diary. I related to her, and it helped me learn more about the Holocaust and WWII**. Her beginning resonated then and now:

June 12, 1942: I hope I will be able to confide everything to you, as I have never been able to confide in anyone, and I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support…

June 14, 1942: I’ll begin from the moment I got you, the moment I saw you lying on the table among my other birthday presents.

What I read then was not the same book I just read, though. Anne did keep a diary, in fact many volumes of them, now referred to as the “a” diary. Near the end of their time in the secret annex, a politician on the radio encouraged those in hiding to document their experiences. Anne went back to the beginning of her diary and began an edited version, now known as the “b” diary. After the war, her father Otto Frank took both documents (which had, against all odds, survived) and combined them into what’s called the “c” version. This is what I read as a girl, and the version most people know. The Definitive Edition is more recent, and restores many deleted passages from the a diary, especially ones dealing with sexuality and Anne’s difficult relationship with her mother.

Reading Prose’s book, and then reading Anne’s diary as an adult, gave me a vaster appreciation of the diary as a book. Anne wanted to be a journalist and to publish her writing. At the ages of 13 to 15, when she was writing the diary, she already showed immense facility with storytelling, characterization, humor and emotion. The diary is the work of a skilled, maturing writer. If you haven’t read Anne’s diary, or haven’t read it in years, I highly recommend The Definitive Edition.

*For the book report, we had to dress as our character. I remember I picked out a plaid skirt and tried to style my hair like Anne’s on the cover of the book. Another student in my class, named Peter and on whom I had a crush (as Anne did on two boys named Peter in her diary) also presented that day. His subject, whom he dressed as? Hitler.

**I learned about the Holocaust and WWII when I was about 7 years old from, of all things, a comic book from a Christian bookstore. It was an adaptation of Corey Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place, and I found it while my mother was shopping for other things. She bought it for me and I read it to tatters.

4 Responses to ““The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition” by Anne Frank”

  1. Inquirer Says:

    Would you recommend The Definitive Version for a 10 year old 5th grader?

  2. girldetective Says:

    I think I would. The sexuality didn’t strike me as much more than was in the original I read way back when, and the additional parts about being upset with her mother were of a piece of what was already there.

  3. Steph Says:

    I remember reading the C version (I would imagine) when I was about 11 or 12 and being mesmerized by it. It was scary and thrilling in part because of what Anne went through that I couldn’t fathom, but because so much of what she related were things that I understood as a girl in the ’90s. I hadn’t thought to go back and revisit it, but you’ve made me think I really should!

  4. Amy Says:

    Yeah, I think it’d be OK for a 10 year old. They probably learn this much at school at that age.

    It was a great experience rereading it as an adult. It made me sad, but for mostly different reasons than when I was a teen. Except, of course, for the ending, which is sad no matter what age you’re at.