Apr 10th, 2012 by Annie
Anna’s Book by Barbara Vine
|1905. Asta and her husband Rasmus have come to east London from Denmark with their two sons. With Rasmus constantly away on business, Asta keeps loneliness and isolation at bay by writing her diary. These diaries, published over seventy years later, reveal themselves to be more than a mere journal, for they seem to hold the key to an unsolved murder, to the quest for a missing child and to the enigma surrounding Asta’s daughter, Swanny. It falls to Asta’s granddaughter Ann to unearth the buried secrets of nearly a century before. – From the 1994 Penguin paperback editionAnna Westerby’s diaries, written in Danish over seventy years ago, are published to great acclaim by her daughter Swanny after Anna’s death. But, do the diaries also contain the revelations of a double mystery within their pages: the true identity of a lost child and an unsolved gruesome murder? Anna’s Book by Barbara Vine is a compelling novel that will keep you guessing until its final pages.
(Note: titled Asta’s Book in the UK)
Book Club Ideas for Anna’s Book
Anna’s Book by Barbara Vine is a wonderful novel filled with twists and turns, questionable character motives, and dark family secrets. Perfect for book club discussions. Also, Anna’s Book makes mention of Anna’s favorite Danish foods and offers plenty of material for decorating ideas. Perfect for a themed book club party.
Much ado was made of the doll house Rasmus built for Marie, so I included a Victorian doll house (actually a puzzle) in my decorations. I added journal books (Anna’s diaries), a book on Dickens and a collection of Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales (Anna’s favorites) for my guest to view upon arrival.
Several guests wore blue butterfly pins (Anna’s pin, which she often wore, matched her eyes) and attire from the turn of the 19th century would be fun to wear. If you are lucky enough to find an old-fashioned baby pram, set that out too.
Book Club Menu for Anna’s Book
Chocolate! Anna had so anticipated her chocolate party that I wanted to include chocolate at my book club party. I had a chocolate happy hour bar set up with chocolate-colored balloons, a chocolate fountain, chocolate-covered wine grapes (very interesting), dark chocolate-covered espresso beans, chocolate-covered peanut clusters, and chocolate espresso martinis. Remember how much Anna loved coffee too!
The chocolate fountain was really easy and my guests loved it. I found an inexpensive fountain at Amazon.com that worked great and after a bit of experimentation, I found the right formula for the chocolate: 3 11-ounce bags of chocolate chips to a 1/4 cup of coconut oil. The chocolate chips and oil are placed in a zip lock bag and heated in a microwave for 30 second intervals until chocolate is melted. Knead the bag between intervals, then add to the basin of the chocolate fountain. Strawberries, pineapple chunks, pretzels, and party cookies were delicious dippers.
We each had our own personalized martini glass with little painted chocolates.
Also served during the chocolate happy hour, were open-faced sandwiches on rye, the Danish smørrebrød. Suggested smørrebrød fixings include Danish Havarti cheese, thin sliced cucumber, thin sliced ham, a creamy crab or shrimp spread, and a coarse ground mustard.
The main course consisted of Frikadeller (Danish Meatballs) in a creamy sauce …
… with Rødkaal (Red Cabbage) …
… and Danish Potato Salad.
Kransekage is a Scandinavian cake sometimes decorated with little flags of a particular Scandinavian country (Denmark for my cake) or little trinkets and gifts, and oftentimes with a bottle of wine in the center.
Book Club Resources for Anna’s Book
Ratings at the time this post was published
|Goodreads: 3.94 stars (405 reviews)|
|Amazon: 4.59 stars (101 reviews)|
|LibraryThing: 3.97 stars (118 reviews)|
|My Rating: 4 stars Just when I knew I had the mysteries solved, Vine would throw in another twist!|
Discussion Questions for Anna’s Book by Barbara Vine
- How important was the Edwardian London time period to the plot of the novel? Do you think the time period played an important role in the moral and ethical choices made by Anna? Compare and contrast the turn of the century voice of Anna to the present day voice of her granddaughter Ann.
- Why do you think Anna read and reread Dickens? Were there special motifs that appear in Dickens’ works that you think carried special appeal to Anna?
- When most was revealed at the end of the novel, what was your reaction? Was the ending believable? Was coincidence or Divine Providence at work?
Purchase Anna’s Book (Asta’s Book) at your favorite bookseller
Ruth Rendell, who publishes also under the pseudonym Barbara Vine, is a highly acclaimed British novelist of pyschological mysteries of crime, murder, and deep, dark family secrets.
Ruth Rendell has received many honors and awards, including The Arts Council National Book Award, The Sunday Times Literary Award, The Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Award, 3 Edgars from the Mystery Writers of America, and more. Several of her novels have been adapted for television and cinema.
Anna’s Book was originally titled Asta’s Book and published in the U.K. in 1993. Rendell’s U.S. publishers, however, insisted the major character’s name be changed to Anna for publication in 1994. Click here to read why Asta was changed to Anna.
Other Works by Author and Recommended Reading
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