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Asta's Book
Barbara Vince
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Asta's Book

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  1,920 ratings  ·  141 reviews
In 1905, Asta and her husband Rasmus have come to East London from Denmark with their two sons. With her husband away Asta keeps loneliness at bay by writing a diary. The entries, published over seventy years later, reveal themselves to be more than a mere journal.
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Published January 1st 1996 by Chivers Audio Books (first published January 1st 1993)
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Jul 14, 2015 Philip rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Just About Everyone
Shelves: favorites
7/14/15: I've listened to this several times over the past few months on audio, superbly performed by Harriet Walter. As many times as I've read the book, I'm still "hearing" new sentences, it seems (I've listened to several other Vines as well during this time, and the same is true of them). Ironically, I was in the process of listening to this when Ruth Rendell was felled by a stroke in January, and another Vine when she died in May.

7/24/13: It's always interesting to get other readers' 'take'
This is one of those rare gems of a book that I literally could not put down. Ever tried washing dishes with one hand so you could hold a book with your other hand? It's messy, but it can work.

Ruth Rendell (writing as Barbara Vine) is one of the most masterful storytellers of contemporary times. This novel is so carefully plotted, so meticulously -- and dare I say perfectly -- crafted that the sheer magnitude of what it must have taken Rendell to work out every small piece of the puzzle is just
I came across an old list of reading recommendations a few weeks ago and requested a few of them from the library. I love that service. I go online, find the books I'm looking for, and they deliver them to the library a couple of block away. Brilliant.

Anyway, I had long forgotten why the book was recommended, but I do know I shared a similar literary sensibility with the long ago list-provider, so I added it to the roster of requests. Kitty, you were absolutely right, it's a book worth recommend
Whoa, I so did not see that coming.

The first Vine book I read was The Blood Doctor and while I could figure out where the book was going, it was still compelling.

This book is great. You think you have it figured out, then you're wrong. Then you think "aha", but still no.

My only quibble is that three of the chapters were rather, well, dry. I understand why they were dry (it was trial transcripts), but still.

Awesome. Vine does a really good job with the character of Ann. The behavior fits and so
While this book does have the clever plotting, twists and turns, I've come to expect of a Barbara Vine title, somehow it just didn't have the same force for me. Perhaps it seemed to go on too long, to have too many red herrings. Yes I did enjoy the unwinding of the diary and current day story, but it all seemed just too much story. (Or it could be me... my initial reading was quite broken up, only continuous at the end.)

I won't let this stop me from trying more Vine stories on for size as I've
Asta's book is classic Barbara Vine and I loved it almost as much as No Night is Too Long and A Dark Adapted Eye.

I just feel compelled to ask why on earth was Asta's name changed ??? And was some one employed to go through the whole book editing the change ? Or did American readers open the first page and then find out the name was wrong ? What a perfectly senseless thing to do...I do not believe that American Barbara Vine readers, or anyone else for that matter would not buy a book because the
Stephen Hayes
I've just finished reading Asta's Book for the second time. What prompted me to re-read it was my disappointment with The child's child, which I read last week.

On the surface, they are the same kind of book, which prompted the comparison. It is a genre that has been made popular by Robert Goddard -- a mystery in the past that has repercussions for people in the present. I found The child's child unsatisfactory and unsatisfying. I had started if with the hope of finding something as good as Asta
You could say that I would HAVE to like this book. It's Ruth Rendell. It takes place in the UK. It starts in the Edwardian period, a historical setting I just love. And many of the characters are from Denmark. (I had a Swedish great-grandmother, so Scandinavian countries interest me.)

The main character, Asta, puts the lie to the idea that all people (especially women) in the olden days were nice, sweet, submitted willingly to their husbands, and wanted lots of children. Asta was pretty cool - in
Terribly boring and awfully hard work for a rather anticlimatic ending. Too much bleak social commentary and not enough story, which is fine but not on the fiction and entertainment shelves. Redeemed by some interesting thoughts.

Favourite quotes:

'Hope is a horrible thing, I don't know why these church people call it virtue, it is horrible because it is so often disappointed'. P.13

'Hope deferred may make the heart sick at first; later it leads only to boredom...Pleasire came later.Inquiring about
Kirsty Darbyshire

the advantage of being the 'best mystery writer in the english speaking world' - as no less than three of the review quotes in this book tell me - is that you can persuade people to read about six chapters of a book before even giving them a hint as to what the mystery is. i can see that there is plenty of ground work laid in the beginning but if i hadn't known the author or read the praise for this book would i have read this far?

something about this book just didn't grab me. i just don't know

Kathleen Hagen
Asta’s Book, by Barbara Vine, narrated by Harriet Walter, produced by Audiogo Ltd. Downloaded from

It is 1905. Asta and her husband, Rasmus, have come to East London from Denmark with their two little boys. With Rasmus constantly away on business, Asta
keeps loneliness and isolation at bay by writing a diary. She keeps up this journal writing from 1905 until almost the time of her death in the late ‘60’s. These diaries, published over 70 years later, reveal themselves to be more than
I read the Penguin edition, which carried the British title, ASTA'S BOOK.
It presents as historical -- excerpts from diaries written by a Danish woman living in London in early 1900s. I keep wanting to know what it is based on! [a real person? real diaries?:] Seems impossible to invent all that, though that seems to be something many novelists are doing these days -writing fiction parading as history.

I enjoyed reading it, and trying to imagine living in that time and place. Interesting asides on
I enjoyed this book very much. The main character is a young Danish woman transplanted to London at the turn of the century. She doesn't much like her husband and begins to unburden herself in a diary she writes in Danish over a 6o year span. The book is fascinating because it combines an intimate view of the woman's life journey unfolding through two world wars and raising her family, and the mystery of the diary's missing pages which explain the most important event in her life and that of her ...more
I read a Kindle version of this book which was titled Asta's Book. I must admit I wonder why this book was re-relased as Anna's book. At the core of the book is Danish Asta's feeling of separation from the English people she lived among. A foreign sounding name helps the reader connect with Asta's separation.

This is a many leveled mystery taking place over nine decades and the lives of three generations of women. While a murder occurs, the central mystery is one of identity, not who-done-it. (Of
I found Anna's Book (by Ruth Rendell writing as Barbara Vine) to be an interesting story, but also one of those rare books I am indifferent to having read -- I am not particularly glad or sorry to have read it, and while I would not recommend against it, I would not particularly recommend it. The main characters are three women, Anna (whose diaries, written 1905 through the mid-60s, are at the center of the book), Anna's favorite daughter Swanny, and Ann (Swanny's niece and Anna's granddaughter) ...more
I love a good British mystery and Ruth Rendell, writing as Barbara Vine, always delivers an intriguing read. If you're looking for fast action, then this isn't the book to pick up, but if your fancy is a well written British cozy in the tradition of an Agatha Christie, then I would recommend this book.

I'm pretty good at figuring out "who-done-its" before the ending, but this one came as a complete surprise.

No Detective, Inspector, Constables or Policeman. No Attorney's, forensic experts, disputed wills or DNA tests. No psychopaths, sociopaths, serial killers or degenerates. No robbery, heist, beating, rape, homophobia or child molestation.

Just a diary, an unromantic women, an old murder and a great story.
Sam Sattler
Book is inscribed to me this way: "To Sam with best wishes, Ruth Rendell as Barbara Vine. Also in Ms. Rendell's hand is printed: "signed at Waterstone Books, Manchester, England, March 1993" I think the North American version of the book is titled "Anna's Book."

I really enjoyed the flow of this story - Barbara Vine is able to so easily flow from time period to time period in the telling - I thought I had the plot figured but, alas, the author had me till the end to solve the mystery (s).
Was really looking for a different Barbara Vine book, but this was the one on the shelf at the library. My understanding was that Ruth Rendell adopted the Vine name to get away from detective fiction. Not sure why she bothered. The protagonist here, Ann, was a female Adam Dalgleish. She was stoic and unemotional, and running down leads. I did foresee most of the reveal. Not exactly, but pretty close. The only character I liked was the deceased old lady Anna. At least she had a personality. Ann's ...more
Begin twintigste eeuw emigreren Asta en Rasmus met hun twee zoontjes van Denemarken naar Groot-Brittanië. Rasmus is vaak voor zaken in het buitenland en om haar eenzaamheid te verdrijven houdt Asta een dagboek bij. Ze schrijft over haar leven in Londen en wat haar bezighoudt, waaronder de moord op Lizzie Roper. Zeventig jaar later vindt Asta's kleindochter Ann de dagboeken. Zij leert al lezende het leven van haar grootmoeder kennen. Eén passage wijst naar Lizzie Roper, destijds een van Asta's bu ...more
[Firstly this is ASTA'S BOOK in the UK - why do US titles override here? Slightly annoying]
This is one of my favourite books of all time, I must have read it 6 or 7 times (possibly more, I haven't counted). I love how Asta's story is slowly told alongside the 2 mysteries to which it is key. Asta is a great character who personality shines through from her early 20s in the diary entries, to her last years. It is a book which more than stands up to re-reading, you can try and pick out the clues o
Jo Marie
Not sure how I feel about this. It's a great story and Anna is a fascinating character. It's a multi-generational story and Barbara Vine does a masterful job with the different time periods and characters. One of my problems with the book was the number of characters. I had trouble keeping track of everyone and their relationships with each other. Another problem is that many pages are devoted to a transcript of a murder trial. The case is important to the story but reading the entire transcript ...more
This is yet another great book by Barbara Vine/Ruth Rendell. She is one of my favorite writers and this book did not disappoint.

I started out feeling sorry for the main character of Anna, but soon discovered her true character of cruel mother who only loves one of her children and makes a point to show favoritism to that one child. While the others weren't abused, they certainly were overlooked. I grew to dislike Anna immensely and felt zero sympathy for her even though I am also the mother of
From Publishers Weekly "From the pen of Edgar-winner Ruth Rendell's suspense-writing doppleganger Vine ( A Dark-Adapted Eye ) comes a sixth adroitly fashioned novel of insidious psychological dimensions. Anna, an uncompromising Danish wife stranded by her husband in 1905 London, slyly scribbles tales of her hateful neighbors, boorish servant and absentee spouse while awaiting the birth of a baby. Half a century later, prompted by a poison pen letter, Anna tells her favorite daughter Swanny a hal ...more
This is an odd book. There is a mystery, or rather a few mysteries, but they come so late in the plot that they seemed to disrupt the pacing. I also couldn't understand the motivations of many of the present day (well, 80's and 90's era) characters. People seemed to do things, talk to people they didn't need to talk to and trust them in ways that didn't seem realistic, just to move the plot along.

The book contains excerpts from 60 years of diaries that, according to the narrator, have been publi
This was on the shelf of the house we rented in Santa Fe. When it was time to leave, I was only half-way through. Tragedy! I contemplated "accidentally" packing it, but am happy to report that I remained honest.

Thanks to the library at home, I got to finish. This is a strange, interesting book. Anna, the diary-keeper, is enigmatic, unlikeable, and frustrating. She takes long walks on Hampstead Heath, lies to her children, and bullies her maid. But hers is only half the story.

Though a grisly murd
Anna, an uncompromising Danish wife stranded by her husband in 1905 London, slyly scribbles tales of her hateful neighbors, boorish servant & absentee spouse while awaiting the birth of a baby. Half a century later, prompted by a poison pen letter, Anna tells her favorite daughter Swanny a half-riddle about her true parentage, but refuses to reveal the whole story, which is entangled with the murder of 2 women & the disappearance of a toddler. After frantically searching Anna's many diar ...more
Anna Wentlent
A bit of a category bender. Alternating between a "present day" narrative in the 1980s and diary entries from the beginning of the twentieth century, I would call this historical fiction, with both social commentary and an underlying murder mystery. Altogether, a great read that I couldn't put down, as Rendell unwrapped the conclusion piece by piece. I reorganized my weekend so I could stay in bed reading.
I was reading this when I found out that she died, RIP she was a legends

The book does such a great job at letting you forget it's fiction , it comes off as almost non fiction in the recollection of the past. The trial in the end can drag on a bit but it was an excellent book and told through so many different perspectives, in such a fascinating way only Ruth could've done.
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