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. These diaries, published over 70 years later, reveal themselves to be more than a mere journal. For they seem to hold the key to an unsolved murder and to the mystery of a missing child. It falls to Asta's granddaughter, Ann, to unearth the buried secrets of nearly a century before.
©2006 Kingsmarkham Enterprises Ltd (P)2010 AudioGO Ltd
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.
Audiobooks have literally changed my life. I now actually ENJOY doing mindless chores because they give me plenty of listening time!
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.
I loved this audiobook - definitely one of my favorites so far. Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine is a superb mystery writer. I've listened to, or read, everything she's ever written.
The most memorable parts of the book for me were in the early chapters where Asta writes in her diary of her early life after immigrating from Denmark to London with her husband, the birth of their children, of Swanny's place in the family, and their rise from near poverty to a life of upper class wealth. Asta herself was a contradiction: tough and cold sometimes, and yet warm and motherly too. She was a survivor first of all and you get the feeling that she would endure anything to get what she wanted. The psychological makeup and interraction between Rendell's characters are what makes her stuff so good.
Harriet Walter brought life to the characters with her scandinavian accent and superb narration. There's nothing worse for an audiobook experience than a bad narrator or better than a good one.
I loved it - from the first word to the last. I looked forward to my long commutes so that I could listen to the book without interruption.
Yes. Even though you know the ending there are still layers not captured in the first listening.
The intrigue, the complex layers and the number of stories within a story.
Excellent reader. She really became part of the story.
Twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Ruth Rendell is a great modern novelest, especially when she writes as Barbara Vine. This one is less weird but much more complex than most, and the main character is fascinating.
I can't imagine anyone who would not find this book tedious.
There could be fewer characters and generations; speedier, tighter plot development; more suspense instead of the promise of it.
The narrator was excellent.
All of them.
This book is really lovely. Kind of a sleepy mystery wrapped in a sleepy mystery. It was sad, and happy, and touching. Asta is a super dynamic character. I couldn't decide whether to love her or hate her. And I suppose that is the affect that Vine was going for. I really solid book that almost anyone would enjoy.
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