|Anna 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)
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 edition
Book Club Ideas
I had a Victorian doll house set up (actually a puzzle) to represent Marie’s doll house, journal books (Anna’s diaries), and a book on Dickens and Hans Christian Andersen (Anna’s favorites) for my guest to view upon arrival.
Several guests wore blue butteryfly pins (Anna’s pin matched her eyes) and anything from the turn of the 19th century would be fun to wear too.
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 an inexpensive mini chocolate fountain I found on Amazon. I had an assortment of fruit and berries, butter cookies and caramels for the 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 and after a bit of experimentation I found the right formula for the chocolate. I used 3 11-ounce bags of chocolate chips to a 1/4 cup of coconut oil. Place chocolate chips and oil in a zip lock bag and heat in microwave for 30 second intervals until chocolate is melted. Knead the bag between intervals, then add to the basin of chocolate fountain.
We each had our own personalized martini glass with little painted chocolates.
Smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches on rye)
Frikadeller (Danish Meatballs)
with Rødkaal (Red Cabbage)
Book Club Resources
My Rating: 4 stars Just when I thought I had the dark family mysteries figured out, Vine would throw in another twist! Truly a psychological thriller.
- “Darker, more enigmatic… Barbara Vine’s most enticing novel yet!” – San Fransisco ChronicleReviews
- “This is an engrossing double-detective story, a mixture of biography, true crime and romance peopled with vivid minor players and red with herrings.” –Shena Mackay, The Independent, UK
- “Brilliantly plotted…engrossingly told…utterly riveting..wonderfully real…fascinatingly unconventional…with clues that will keep even the most adept mystery bluffs guessing…proves what most readers have known for years…Barbara Vine’s psychological suspense novels are as good as crime fiction gets.” – Booklist
- “A captivating story within a story, a first-rate study of class, gender and character, a courtroom drama and an un-put-downable page-turner.” – Washington Post Book World
Ruth Rendell, who publishes also under the pseudonym Barbara Vine, is a highly acclaimed British novelist of psychological 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 Bookand 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.