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Originally published in the US as "Anna's Book" this Ruth Rendell novel provides an exceptional portrait of three generations of woman in London from 1905 until the mid-sixties. Deservedly a modern classic, the reading perfectly matches and enhances the text. Ms Walter subtly differentiates each of the three women and finds every moment of humor, frustration and suspense as the diaries are used to solve a sixty year old mystery. Leisurely paced this is a novel more about character than event and an extraordinary listening experience.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
It is 1905 and Asta Westerby and her husband Rasmus have just moved to England from Denmark with their two boys, with a third child on the way, which Asta dearly hopes will be a girl. Asta tells her story through a series of journals, in which she writes sporadically about various events, describing her family life; her marriage, her children, her maid, which make up her whole universe. Asta has an independent spirit and was not necessarily cut out to be a wife and mother, but she accepts her lot because other alternatives don't seem appealing or feasible. But this is only part of the story, because the other part takes place in a contemporary setting, sometime in the 90s, which is when this book was published. Asta's granddaughter Ann has come into her inheritance now that her aunt Swanny has passed away. Swanny was Asta's favourite child and having discovered her mother's journals after her passing, decided to have them translated and published with tremendous success. Now Ann is responsible for the manuscripts and intends to continue publishing additional volumes. But there are various mysteries to be found in what have become historical artifacts. Swanny was never able to learn the truth about her true identity after receiving an anonymous letter telling her she was not in fact Asta's child, something which Asta herself refused to confirm on way or another. Is the answer to be found in one of the volumes? But there are also mentions about a horrible crime which was a sensation in it's time, with Alfred Roper accused of murdering his wife and the disappearance of their young toddler Lizzie. Was Swanny that Roper child? And if not, what happened to Lizzie? These are mysteries which Ann and a friend producing a movie about the murder mystery are out to solve.
The premise of this novel seemed very interesting, but I found the story very confusing, with two seemingly completely separate stories and families that had nothing in common somehow connected in a way which is only revealed at the very end. Perhaps this is a story which benefits from a second reading. Then again, perhaps my own mind is too muddled to understand a plot which doesn't follow a familiar narrative style. I also kept wondering why Asta's journals had become such hugely successful books, as they didn't seem to make for such gripping reading on their own. Don't let my confused ramblings about this book influence you though, because it seems to have met with a lot of appreciation with other readers.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
If you are not a speaker of danish and not aware, as i was not, that the pronunciation is not correct, then the delivery of this captivating story is near perfect. It is unfortunate to give such a quality novel and beautiful reading an average rating of three stars, as the previous reviewer did, on a point which will be irrelevant to most listeners. One of the best Barbara Vine stories read with feeling.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
If I could give this book 10 stars I would - what an amazing story, and so well read - I usually prefer male narrators, but Harriet Walter (an amazing actress!) does this justice, and more. Because the story is so long I HAD to put it down, but would have much preferred not to... Highly recommended.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful