2007: 45. Anna’s Book

“My grandmother was a novelist without knowing it.  She knew nothing about how to become a novelist and if she had, it would never have occurred to her as feasible.  The alternative path she took is now well known.”

Anna’s Book, Barbara Vine

Barbara Vine is a pseudonym for mystery novelist Ruth Rendell, whose Thirteen Steps Down I read last year (and I will import my archives over sometime soon, so that I can link to stuff like that, which was the whole point of putting this book journal on-line).  Under the name Vine she writes stories that are less straight-up mysteries and more psychological thrillers.  The best (this one, The Chimney Sweeper’s Boy, A Dark Adapted Eye) involve the exploring of dark family secrets, and how they have affected future generations.  I sometimes find Rendell’s writing to be cold (particularly when writing about the creepy, affectless sociopath that so often crops up in her stories), but her books in this vein are absolutely fabulous.  Well-written, insightful, and extremely interesting.


This book tells the story of Anna, who moved to England from Denmark around the turn of the century, and kept marvelous diaries.  It tells the story of her granddaughter, Ann, who has inherited the task of publishing the diaries (which have become a remarkable hit) after her aunt’s death.  And it tells the story of Swanny, Anna’s daughter and Ann’s aunt, who found out late in life that she might not have been Anna’s biological daughter, and who became obsessed with finding out the truth.  Wrapped in the mix is an old-fashioned Edwardian murder mystery, a couple of love stories, and excerpts from Anna’s wonderful diary.  I have read this book two or three times, at least, and enjoy it every time. 


Recommended for: Anyone who loves a good story; mystery lovers; people who are (like me) particularly interested in old fashioned sepia toned Edwardian England.


Date/Place Completed:  4/4/07; D.C.

Categories: Fiction; Re-Read; Ruth Rendell Project 

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017