Thursday, September 27, 2007


I injured my back this past Monday afternoon by picking up something the wrong way. I spent the rest of Monday and all of Tuesday laying on the floor watching reruns of America's Next Top Model (quite addictive if you've no place to go) and reading a bit in between. I'm getting around - laying down is best, followed by standing and walking carefully. Sitting is not feeling so good, so I'm very behind on my blog reading and such.

Fortunately, I've been reading the perfect book for an invalid, Asta's Book by Barbara Vine (published in the US as Anna's book). Asta's Book is told from two points of view. The first, that of Asta, a Danish woman whose husband has brought her to England to live, is told through her diaries which she began in 1905. She writes about daily life and her innermost feelings about her family, maid, and neighbors. The second point of view is that of her Granddaughter Ann and takes place during the 1980s. Ann's Aunt Swanny, oldest daughter of Asta, comes across her Mother's diaries after her death. They come to be published and Asta becomes a well known writer posthumously. There is mystery involved, an unsolved murder that took place near Asta's home in 1905, and some missing pages in the original diary.

I believe Barbara Vine (aka Ruth Rendell) is best known as a mystery writer and while I don't generally read much in the murder-mystery genre, I really enjoyed this book. It felt more like a literary book that happened to have mystery within it. I really enjoyed Vine's writing, and found this book a completely enjoyable and absorbing read.

I'm curious to know what the difference is between books published by Ruth Rendell compared to Barbara Vine. I'm also interested in finding out what Barbara Vine books have been enjoyed by others. Please let me know if you have any ideas.

Now I am off to ice my back.


heather (errantdreams) said...

I hope you feel better soon!!

david mcmahon said...

Take it easy. Read a lot. Get everyone else to fetch and carry for you. Hope you feel better soon.

Anonymous said...

Tara, so very sorry about your back. That is so easy to do sometimes. Take good care of yourself!

I did read Anna's Book many years ago. It has the long-ago diary and present-day settings that I so enjoy. I don't think I ever read any of her other books as Barbara Vine.

The Ruth Rendall books that are non-series. (she writes the Inspector Wexford series) and there are a lot of them, are mostly termed psychological thrillers. I haven't read any of them but I suspect they are more mystery-like and less literary. I think her Barbara Vine persona is the literary/mystery side.

Danielle said...

I loved this book. I think I have read nearly all her B. Vine books (you might also like A Dark Adapted Eye). Like Kay said, the Rendells are the Wexford mysteries, plus some stand alones. The Vine books are more literery and more psychological in nature rather than crime novels. If you belong to Netflix, there are a series of films adapted from her Rendell books--I think they are just called The Ruth Rendell Mysteries. The first was really good, the second pretty good, and I think there is one more I'll be getting. I haven't read the books they are adapted from, so I can't say how they compare to the books, though. I'd like to reread Anna's Book, too!! (I hope you're feeling better soon, too!)

Tara said...

Heather, thank you!

David, I will - thanks much.

Kay, thank you, and thanks for clarifying the Vine/Rendell mystery for me!

Danielle, I meant to mention in my post that I came across this book because of your recent post mentioning it and I forgot - I am sorry. Thanks for your suggestions - A Dark Adapted Eye does sound like one I'd enjoy.

Bookfool said...

I don't know if it's still there, but at The Guardian's website (, there was an interview of Ruth Rendell - a podcast (?) that you could download - in the books section. She's a funny person and absolutely fascinating. I'm pretty sure she described the difference between the Ruth Rendell and Barbara Vine books. Odd that they changed the name from Asta to Anna in the American publication. I'll have to look that one up.

Hope your back improves quickly. I've done that, in the past, and it's absolutely amazing how difficult it is to move when your back is out of commission.

Nan said...

I'm so sorry about your back, Tara. But what good use you are making of your time. :<)

Carrie K said...

I've read Ruth Rendell and Barbara Vine but not for awhile and I didn't realize at the time they were the same person. After that, I tended to try to keep an eye out for the pseudonyms. There are quite a few! Kind of shockingly, but I'd read that their publishers wanted to keep the pen name "pure" for the genre. More or less.

BooksPlease said...

Sorry about your back Tara - I hope it's improved by now. I haven't read any Barbara Vine, but really enjoy her Ruth Rendell books.

Cornflower said...

I sympathise with you about your back, Tara, as I know from long experience how painful and awkward that sort of thing can be.
I very much enjoyed Asta's Book. Barbara Vine can be quite dark.

Robin said...

I'm so sorry about your back and hope you feel better soon! I love Ruth Rendell's mysteries, but didn't know she wrote under another name. Asta's Book sounds very interesting. I'll have to try it.

Tara said...

Bookfool, I'll have to check out that podcast. I agree, it's strange that the name was changed to Anna....especially considering her Granddaughter is Ann - very confusing. You are right - it's been so frustrating not to be able to do regular things.

Nan, thank you, and yes, it's been VERY productive! =)

Carrie, good point about publishers keeping the names 'pure'. I expect that's a big reason for the pen names. Rendell/Vine seems to be very prolific..I guess that could be another reason.

Booksplease, thank you - it's better than it was but I'm still having pain.

Karen, awkward is the perfect word for how I'm feeling. I'm glad to hear you also enjoyed Asta's Book.

Hi Robin, thank you. It's interesting that in the Vine book, the author infomation blurb states that she is Ruth Rendell - funny that it doesn't go both ways!

Gentle Reader said...

Hope your back feels better soon! I've always wanted to read Ruth Rendell, and now I'll have to add Barbara Vine to my list, too--since I had no idea they were the same person. This book sounds interesting!

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Tara!

Gosh, you poor thing, hope your back's better now? Sorry I'm late with this comment, I've been taking a bit of a break from blogging.