Anna's Book

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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 original journals, which may shed light on an unsolved multiple murder - the stabbing death of an elderly woman and her daughter - and the ...
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Overview

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 original journals, which may shed light on an unsolved multiple murder - the stabbing death of an elderly woman and her daughter - and the mysterious disappearance of an infant child. Vintage Vine, this novel alternates between passages from Anna's best-selling memoirs and the thoughts of Anna's granddaughter, recent heir to Anna's estate. With unforgettable characters and a plot rich in complexity, the mystery unfolds like a dark flower, petal by petal. Another tour de force from Barbara Vine.

The memoirs of a young Danish woman living in London at the turn of the century are published to huge commercial success. Many years later, the woman's granddaughter discovers that one entry has been cut out of the original journals--an entry that may shed light on an unsolved multiple murder.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's 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 half-riddle about her true parentage, but refuses to reveal the whole story, which is entangled with the murder of two women and the disappearance of a toddler. After frantically searching Anna's many diaries for clues to no avail, Swanny publishes them to great acclaim; after Swanny dies, her niece Ann picks up the thread binding three generations and families and follows it to a neatly executed conclusion. Vine skillfully braids the lives of the three women, but it is Anna's voice--puckish, angry, mysterious--that commands attention as fat red herrings are dangled, then tossed. While not as taut and chilling as Vine's--or Rendell's--best books, a mordant eye and textured accounts of turn-of-the-century London lend this novel a sharp edge. (July)
Library Journal
Vine's most recent tale of psychological suspense revolves around a woman's discovery that the published memoirs of her deceased grandmother hid evidence of an elderly woman's murder and the disappearance of a little girl. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/1/93.
Emily Melton
Vine (aka Ruth Rendell) has already won the Edgar and the Golden Dagger, but her latest novel deserves both those awards and more. Brilliantly plotted and engrossingly told, "Anna's Book" is the story of three women whose lives are linked not only by their familial ties but also by their strong characters. Anna, a young Danish immigrant living in London at the turn of the century, records every aspect of her life--her loveless marriage; stories of her children, her neighbors, and her past; observations about fashion, politics, and society--in a set of diaries spanning more than 60 years. Anna's daughter, Swanny, born in 1905, discovers the diaries after Anna's death and decides to publish them. She has no idea they will make her famous. But despite her celebrity, Swanny is an unhappy woman who is convinced she's not Anna's real daughter. Ann is Swanny's niece, a child of the 1990s, and it is from her perspective that most of the story is written. Swanny is dead, and Ann has inherited not only the legacy of the diaries but a consuming curiosity about Swanny's true identity. The diaries hold the key to the strange and shocking secrets that shroud Swanny's past. Vine's story is utterly riveting, rich and multifaceted in its complexity. Her characters are wonderfully real and fascinatingly unconventional, and the clues to Swanny's identity will keep even the most adept mystery buffs guessing. "Anna's Book" only proves what most mystery readers have known for years: Ruth Rendell's psychological suspense novels, whether written under her own name or as Barbara Vine, are as good as crime fiction gets.
Kirkus Reviews
For her sixth Barbara Vine novel (King Solomon's Carpet, 1992, etc.), Ruth Rendell returns to the formula of the earliest Vines: the unfolding investigation—through the interpretation of contemporary accounts aided by memory—of a crime in the past. For over 60 years, Anna Westerby, a Danish ‚migr‚ trapped in London with her unloving husband Rasmus, has unburdened herself to a diary that is published after her death to acclaim and wide sales. It isn't until after Anna's daughter Swanny's death in 1988 that Anna's granddaughter Ann Eastbrook, acting on a suggestion from her onetime friend Cary Olver (who stole, married, and divorced Ann's former lover), wonders whether the hints of Swanny's illegitimacy—hints Anna placidly refused to confirm or deny during her lifetime—might be connected to the 1913 trial of her neighbor Alfred Roper for the murder of his wife Lizzie. Does Anna's diary hold the key to Roper's innocence or guilt? Does it reveal whether his baby daughter Edith, who vanished on the day of the murder and hasn't been seen since, is actually Swanny? Once Ann accepts Cary's theory that a brief, crucial section of Anna's entries for 1905 is missing from the diary, she decides that only these missing entries can clear up the mystery of Swanny's birthright. But the mystery, as Vine's fans will expect, takes several unexpected turns in past and present before Ann finally solves the puzzle of her family's history. Vine's character drawing—from grimly independent Anna to the luckless Roper family—is as firm as ever, and there's the bonus of an unusually intricate plot. Despite an anticlimactic ending, then: the best Vine since A Dark-AdaptedEye.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780451405494
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/1/1994
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 4.22 (w) x 6.78 (h) x 1.03 (d)

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