Anna’s Book, Barbara Vine

I have dreams like this.

I shouldn’t get my hopes up. I should be very calm and relaxed. I shall probably go to the library tomorrow, get sixteen of Ruth Rendell’s books, and find I don’t like a single other one of them.

I liked Anna’s Book.  I read it because I keep hearing everyone going on about Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine.  So the last time I was at the library I went to the Barbara Vine section, as I like that name better, and got Anna’s Book because my sister is called Anna.  And it was quite good.  A most satisfying mystery.  I read the end but didn’t catch exactly everything, and I felt clever about noticing that Hansine was on her period.  That’s right.  I can recognize old-timey euphemisms for menstruation.

Anna’s Book is about a woman called Anna (Asta actually, but they changed it for some reason when the book came to the U.S.) who came to England as a Danish immigrant before the first World War, and she kept diaries.  And ages and ages later her diaries got really famous and published, and a mean person wrote a letter to Anna’s oldest daughter, Swanny, to tell her that Swanny was not really Anna’s daughter.  And the book goes back and forth, with excerpts from the diaries and bits about what Swanny did, and bits about what Swanny’s niece Ann did to find out what was what.  Very much with the good structure.

I like these nice tidy mysteries.  Not just because I like to have things squared away neatly, but also because books are fun when they have intricate plots that come together well.  Holes was really good about this, and so was Special Topics in Calamity Physics.  And I liked them both.  And, actually, The Chosen, which was a totally different kind of book.

I finished up Anna’s Book and I looked up Ruth Rendell on the internet and do you know how many novels she’s written, DO YOU KNOW?

You probably don’t know.  I will tell you.

FIFTY-SIX.

And I’ve only read one of them.  Oh, and also, she’s written another one that will be released in November, and another one again (called The BIrthday Present) that’s getting released in March of next year.  That one, The Birthday Present, will be her fifty-eighth book.  This almost shows that it was meant for her to be my next big thing, because my birthday is May 7th (five seven), and the book’s called The Birthday Present.

Actually, she’s British.  So it works out perfectly.  In Britain my birthday is May 8th.  I was born quite late at night on the 7th of May, in America, which means rather early in the morning on the 8th of May, in Britain.  Voila.  The Birthday Present and its number are Signs.  I shall check out and read loads of her other books and it will be exactly like when we went camping and I read all of Elizabeth Peters’ books for the first time.  And I need that kind of cheering-up because my big sister just moved away.

(I’ve gotten a lot of play out of this May 7th-May 8th America-Britain thing.  My mum thought of it when I was away in England.  It is also the means by which I claim that my confirmation name saint has her feast day on my birthday, because she’s British.  Though in fact that doesn’t work at all, because I’m Catholic, and her Catholic feast day is May 13th, not May 8th.  But whatever.  It’s close enough for government work.)

  • Love BV. Here is a link to a post I wrote about A Dark -Adapted Eye by VB. I’ve also enjoyed House of Stairs and Chimney Sweeper’s Boy.

    http://booksandcooks.blogspot.com/2007/11/dark-adapted-eye.html

    To tell you the truth, Anna’s (Asta’s) Book is still my favorite, with Dark Adapted Eye a close second. I understand the books written under the Rendell name are a bit different. Have fun! I’ve collected a stack of Vines and I dole them out to myself sparingly.

  • I loved this book!
    http://superfastreader.com/annas-book-by-barbara-vine.htm

    You should check out A Dark-Adapted Eye. It’s my favorite Vine.

  • jennysbooks

    Tara – I sort of had the impression that the Rendell ones would be a bit different (not as good). I checked out six of them today. I’m saving the Barbara Vine ones for special occasions like, I don’t know, pregnancy or something.

    annie – Yay! I think actually you said something about Barbara Vine on your blog and that was why I picked up Anna’s book, so thank you! And I will definitely check out A Dark-Adapted Eye, though now both of you have recommended it, I will probably delay gratification for years yet.

  • Philip

    I hope you’re continuing to pursue reading the Vines and Rendells – under either name she’s my favorite writer, period, and I’ve read them all. I’ve read ASTA’S BOOK an even dozen times, and other Vines such as A DARK-ADAPTED EYE, A FATAL INVERSION, HOUSE OF STAIRS and BRIMSTONE WEDDING as much as five times each, the rest merely two or three times. Her stand-alone suspense novels as Rendell are also great, particularly THE BRIDESMAID, A DEMON IN MY VIEW, THE KILLING DOLL and A JUDGMENT IN STONE. And if you like a detective series, her Chief Inspector Wexford novels are excellent. Her insights into the obsessive/compulsive mind are remarkable, and one of the things she’s best-known for. But something definitely happens when she sits down to write as Barbara Vine (and although some of us feel that some “Rendells” could almost be “Vines” she says there’s a definite difference, and that she knows even as she plans a book whether it’s a “Rendell” or a “Vine”).

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