Asta's Book Read ↠ 4

review Asta's Book

As well as a mystery for subseuent generations to unravel Walter's considerable acting skills keep the long process moving As most of the central figures are female her very feminine voice presents few gender problems She occasionally shows s While this book does have the clever plotting twists and turns I ve come to expect of a Barbara Vine title somehow it just didn t have the same force for me Perhaps it seemed to go on too long to have too many red herrings Yes I did enjoy the unwinding of the diary and current day story but it all seemed just too much story Or it could be me my initial reading was uite broken up only continuous at the end I won t let this stop me from trying Vine stories on for size as I ve been very pleased with the others I ve read I also seem to be a bit below the average in my view of this one sotake it for what it s worth

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Asta's Book

Written by Ruth Rendell under the pen name of Barbara Vine the diary of a lonely Danish immigrant at the turn of the century became a bestseller in England Asta offers keen interest in life zest for storytelling and acerbic views of humanity In the early 1900s Rasmus Westerby moves his wife Asta and their two young boys from their native Denmark to LondonRasmus parks his family in the middling neighborhood of Hackney and leaves for long stretches of time trying to become a business success For her part Asta doesn t like Hackney disdains English people has little interest in her sons and has no love for her husband who she thinks only married her for the dowry of 5000 kroner As it happens Asta is pregnant again characters in this book have no concept of birth control and is desperate to have a girl So when little Swanhild Swanny is born in 1905 Asta is thrilled A few years later another daughter Marie comes along and the family is complete Asta is a conventional and conservative woman of her time but she s well educated and loves to read especially Charles Dickens in Danish To assuage some of the loneliness Asta feels in the alien environs of England she keeps a diary In the journal Asta talks about many things daily activities thoughts feelings people children husband friends relatives servants neighbors acuaintances etc food clothes homes furniture ornaments parties gossip newspaper stories and so onanything that pops into her head Asta s diary entries spanning than sixty years are interspersed throughout the book which goes back and forth between past and presentAfter Asta s death in her eighties her oldest daughter Swanny finds the diaries Swanny has the first couple of volumes translated from Danish to English and publishes them as a sort of lark To Swanny s surprise the diaries become wildly popular a worldwide phenomenon In time additional volumes of the diary are published and Swanny as the editor becomes a celebrity in her own right There are meetings with publishers book signings public appearances photos in magazines and world travel After Swanny dies her niece Ann Marie s daughter a professional researcher takes over as editor of the remaining diaries As the story unfolds a couple of mysteries are revealed Swanny s conundrum When Asta is widowed she moves in with Swanny who has a rich successful husband and a lovely large house Asta loves to socialize and for her own 83rd birthday arranges a lavish chocolate party at Swanny s home On the day of the party Swanny receives an anonymous letter that says You are not your mother s child or your father s They got you from somewhere when their own one died Swanny who always knew her father didn t like her intuitively believes this She confronts her mother who or less admits Swanny is not her natural born child but refuses to say anything ever Swanny is devastated and haunted by this revelation and desperately tries to discover her origins When Swanny and then Ann get custody of the diaries they study them for clues to Swanny s origin but several vital pages are missing For Swanny the enigma of her parentage has severe psychological conseuencesThe Roper murder In her 1905 diary Asta briefly mentions that her maid Hansine has become acuainted with Florence the servant of a family called the Ropers Hansine asks permission to invite her new friend Florence to tea and Asta agrees Soon afterward Lizzie Roper is murdered and her toddler daughter Edith disappears Lizzie s husband Alfred Roper is accused of murdering his wife and the trial is avidly followed by the public Jump to the present and true crime stories are very popular A producer named Cary is planning to make a movie about the old Roper case She asks Ann the current editor of the Asta diaries for a peek at the yet unpublished diaries to see if the Ropers are mentioned again This leads to a loose collaboration between Cary and Ann as they look for information about the Roper affair Asta s Book is both a novel of psychological suspense and the story of Asta Westerby and her family Asta s story is uite compelling As Rasmus s fortunes rise and fall she goes from lower middle class to prosperity to struggling once again before moving in with Swanny I enjoyed the diary entries about Asta s fashionable clothes Danish foods blekage and kransekage household trappings love for Swanny crush on her driver and so on KransekageI also liked the description of the dollhouse Rasmus made for Ann called Padanaram This masterpiece took years to complete and was a faithful reproduction of the Westerby s posh home at the time I would have loved to have this dollhouse as a child LOLThe mystery portion of the story is also uite engaging I wanted to know about Swanny s heritage and was intrigued by the various theories proposed by different characters I was also eager to discover whether Alfred Roper was guilty or innocent of murdering his wife Asta s Book published in 1993 has the vibe of an old fashioned mystery It moves slowly and thoughtfully contains provocative red herrings and has no graphic violence except for one slit throat The book would appeal to a wide array of readers including fans of literary novels psychological suspense stories and traditional mysteries Highly recommendedYou can follow my review at

Barbara Vine õ 4 characters

Train with dialects but this is mitigated by her understanding of inner motivations Indeed it proves to be the personal uirks of the characters that both create and solve the mystery as denouement follows denouement to a surprising conclusion I was recently nudged toward this book by another Goodreader s excellent review Apart from its rather complicated plots expanding outward through three generations of a Danish family between its transplantation to Britain shortly after 1900 and sometime around the 1980s or 90s it is a book about writing retrospective interpretation of texts and turning words into books with nods toward the broader changing complexities of that enterprise which these days seems to have less to do with words on paper It may be most satisfying for those interested in writing and reading for those who chiefly prefer snappy whodunits perhaps less soThe reader reads several decades of the diaries that constitute Asta s Book salted as it later turns out with clues that at first are not read as clues in a grisly murder and in family mysteries that only emerge as mysteries for later generations Readers also read about Asta s offspring re reading translating and editing Asta s words for the wider literary world in which she becomes something of a phenomenon Asta s children and grandchildren also begin to uestion what she might have been saying between the lines not to mention on half a dozen missing pages mysteriously ripped out of an early volume at a critical moment The temporal and generational shifts sometimes in mid chapter reuire paying than indolent attention to avoid confusion One may hear about certain events multiple times eg Mogen s death as different generations of Asta s family cover the same ground In some but not all cases this begins to make sense after the grisly murder intrudes on the plot about of the way through the book and comes to dominate much of the restVine s research seems meticulous Thanks to Google Maps one could even follow family removals from one address to another and in some cases on walks from one significant location or crime scene to another Late Victorian interiors look right and the challenges of living in them in the days before modern conveniences sound convincing Sometimes Vine s historical recreation is almost too good she includes for example a full transcription of a 50 page in the large print edition 1950s monograph in determinedly academic prose about the grisly murder and its prosecution in which no detail is too insignificant to be included Faced with that level of writerly authenticity I began reading only every other paragraphIt was not a book that I couldn t put down which made sorting it all out a bit challenging But once the most careful readers from later generations of Asta s family began to interpret and make sense of what Asta had been saying between the lines than half a century before it became engaging 35 rounded up


10 thoughts on “Asta's Book

  1. says:

    Did Ruth Rendell consider the novels she wrote under the pseudonym Barbara Vine to be her best work I personally think this is than likely Much missed by her many fans since her death in 2015 Ruth Rendell was a very prolific and highly regarded crime writer with over sixty books to her name She won many awards and honour

  2. says:

    In the early 1900s Rasmus Westerby moves his wife Asta and their two young boys from their native Denmark to LondonRasmus parks his family in the middling neighborhood of Hackney and leaves for long stretches of time trying to become a business success For her part Asta doesn't like Hackney disdains English people has little interest in her sons and has no love for her husband who she thinks only married her for the dowry of 5000 kroner

  3. says:

    71415 I've listened to this several times over the past few months on audio superbly performed by Harriet Walter As many times as I've read the book I'm still hearing new sentences it seems I've listened to several other Vines as well during this time and the same is true of them Ironically I was in the process of listening to this when Ruth Rendell was felled by a stroke in January and another Vine when she d

  4. says:

    While this book does have the clever plotting twists and turns I've come to expect of a Barbara Vine title somehow it just didn't have the same force for me Perhaps it seemed to go on too long to have too many red

  5. says:

    A lovely rich often complex historical mysteryfamily saga of which I'm tempted to say something like 'books like this don't get written any'; I'm sure they do of course they just rarely appear on my radar But this one did and for that I am thankful it's a cosy book something to abandon yourself to and written w

  6. says:

    This is one of those rare gems of a book that I literally could not put down Ever tried washing dishes with one hand so you could hold a book with your other hand It's messy but it can workRuth Rendell writing as Barbara Vine is one

  7. says:

    Once again I try to read Ruth Rendell this time in her guise as Barbara Vine I wonder if there is something wrong with me I just can't take to her writing in either personification In this case I could not like AstaAnna at all I found her best selling book not credible and she came across cold arrogant and cruel apart from the earl

  8. says:

    I was recently nudged toward this book by another Goodreader’s excellent review Apart from its rather complicated plots expanding outward through three generations of a Danish family between its transplantation to Britain shortly after 1900 and sometime around the 1980s or ’90s it is a book about writing retrospective

  9. says:

    Terribly boring and awfully hard work for a rather anticlimatic ending Too much bleak social commentary and not enough story which is fine bu

  10. says:

    Asta's book is classic Barbara Vine and I loved it almost as much as No Night is Too Long and A Dark Adapted Eye I just feel compelled to ask why on earth was Asta's name changed And was some one employed to go through the whole book editin

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