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Anna's Book

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating Details ·  2,273 Ratings  ·  176 Reviews
Anna is a young Danish woman living in London at the turn of the century. Homesick and lonely for her husband, she keeps her innermost thoughts in a diary. When she dies, these memoirs, spanning sixty years, will be published to international acclaim and huge commercial success. But as Anna's granddaughter discovers many years later, one entry has been cut out of the ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published October 1st 1994 by Onyx (first published January 1st 1993)
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Patrick King This was only done in the American edition (as we'd expect) because Asta is an unusual, European name primarily associated in America with the dog in…moreThis was only done in the American edition (as we'd expect) because Asta is an unusual, European name primarily associated in America with the dog in The Thin Man. Anna is the granddaughter who solves the mystery (with a little help from her friends). As Americans, publishers assume we're too stupid to want to read a book with a European name in the title. Frankly, I'd read a book with an asterisk for a title if it's by Barbara Vine. Apparently publishers don't realize that.(less)

Community Reviews

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Jean
Nov 19, 2016 Jean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Did Ruth Rendell consider the novels she wrote under the pseudonym "Barbara Vine" to be her best work? I personally think this is more than likely. Much missed by her many fans since her death in 2015, Ruth Rendell was a very prolific and highly regarded crime writer, with over sixty books to her name. She won many awards and honours, and continued to craft novel after novel, even though she increasingly had other commitments. She regularly attended the House of Lords every day, for instance, st ...more
Teresa
Oct 12, 2016 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: n-inglaterra, e4
É um livro escrito por Ruth Rendell e pouco mais há para dizer…
Uma escritora de policiais (sempre originais e surpreendentes) pouco dada à descrição de assassínios sangrentos, cometidos por psicopatas, e mais aos "deslizes criminais" das pessoas comuns.

Não dou as cinco estrelas apenas porque as reservo para aqueles livros que em momento algum me aborrecem e O Diário de Asta tem cerca de meia dúzia de páginas de um julgamento, com os respetivos discursos dos advogados, assunto que me enfada muito
...more
Philip
Jul 14, 2015 Philip rated it it was amazing  ·  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'
...more
Thea
Jan 08, 2014 Thea rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Sue
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
...more
Deborah Pickstone
Once again I try to read Ruth Rendell, this time in her guise as Barbara Vine. I wonder if there is something wrong with me? I just can't take to her writing in either personification. In this case I could not like Asta/Anna at all. I found her best selling book not credible and she came across cold, arrogant and cruel, apart from the early part of the book where she simply seemed unhappy and a bit spiteful.

Anyway, it hasn't changed my mind about the writing. I find Rendell somehow uninvolving a
...more
Barbara
Jul 08, 2013 Barbara rated it it was amazing
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
...more
LizG
Jan 02, 2010 LizG rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Nina
Sep 02, 2011 Nina rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Chris
Oct 29, 2016 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-british
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
...more
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
...more
K L
Dec 24, 2011 K L rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Margaret
This really is a 5 star book - I think it will be among the best books I've read this year. I shall write more in due course.
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

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

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
...more
Alisa
May 25, 2010 Alisa rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
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
...more
Rita
Oct 06, 2011 Rita rated it liked it
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
...more
Sandy
Sep 30, 2012 Sandy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nancy
Sep 15, 2013 Nancy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery, kindle
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
...more
Anita
Mar 28, 2009 Anita rated it really liked it
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.

Anita
Francis
Dec 12, 2011 Francis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Darlene
Sep 04, 2016 Darlene rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow,this was good!
I'd been meaning to read/listen to this for years,and finally got around to it thanks to one of those Amazon daily deals. I added the audible narration for 4 bucks more,and was totally absorbed for 14 hours. It's got everything a fan of Kate Morton's books loves...a family secret,a murder mystery,a diary...and plenty of twists and turns.
Barbara
Dec 06, 2016 Barbara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-challenge

In the early 1900s Rasmus Westerby moves his wife Asta and their two young boys from their native Denmark to London. Rasmus parks his family in the middling neighborhood of Hackney and leaves for long stretches of time, trying to become a business success.

For her part Asta doesn't like Hackney, disdains English people, has little interest in her sons, and has no love for her husband - who she thinks only married her for the dowry of 5,000 kroner. As it happens Asta is pregnant again (characters
...more
Patricia
Aug 02, 2012 Patricia rated it really liked it


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).
Sam Sattler
Apr 24, 2012 Sam Sattler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-novel
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."
Peggy
Jan 18, 2016 Peggy rated it it was amazing
I think that this novel is the best mystery that I have ever read. It rambles in the beginning with clues that you are not aware of. Absolutely takes your breath away.
Babete
Oct 09, 2016 Babete rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Uma obra-prima, obrigatório ler!
Alice Neilson
Nov 03, 2016 Alice Neilson rated it liked it
I was mostly confused during most of the book. All the names, some so similar I had a hard time keeping track of them, and who was talking in many cases. Still and all I am glad I finished the book and found out the outcome of the "mystery." This is the 3rd Ruth Rendell I read, one of them because I had heard it was a prequel to our book groups selection.
Cleo Bannister
I have read and re-read this book over the years, I love it and think it is one of the best Barbara Vine has ever written.

I love the style of writing the description of life at the turn of the last century. This book always strikes me as being a true story as it is so well written.

If you haven't read it you're missing a real treat.
Ed Gardner
Oct 29, 2016 Ed Gardner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Different and good.

There is a murder in it but lots of full rich life as well.
The family interactions are worth the read.
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  • The Tree of Hands
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Pseudonym of Ruth Rendell.

Rendell created a third strand of writing with the publication of A Dark Adapted Eye under her pseudonym Barbara Vine in 1986. Books such as King Solomon's Carpet, A Fatal Inversion and Anna's Book (original UK title Asta's Book) inhabit the same territory as her psychological crime novels while they further develop themes of family misunderstandings and the side effects
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