ANNA’S BOOK alternates between selections from the diary of Anne Westerby and the activities of her daughter Swanny Kjaer and granddaughter Ann Eastbrook. The introduction to ANNA’S BOOK, written in the voice of Ann Eastbrook, presents Ann as a biographer completing the publication of the diaries begun by her aunt, Swanny Kjaer. She indicates that the present book contains excerpts from the diaries that will illuminate both a quest for an identity and the quest for a lost child.
The book begins with excerpts from Anna’s diary that serve to introduce her and Swanny. The next chapter describes Swanny’s funeral eighty years later and introduces Ann. From there, the book alternates between diary excerpts and Ann’s memories and experiences.
The first mystery begins when Swanny, as a middle-aged woman, receives an anonymous note in the mail casting doubt on the fact that she is Anna’s daughter. The letter may be a malicious prank brought on by Swanny’s celebrity as the wife of a diplomat. Anna never answers the question definitively, but after Anna’s death, Swanny discovers the diaries that Anna had kept, in Danish although she was living in England, for fifty years. Hoping to uncover the truth there, she finds a translator for the diaries and later begins publishing them, with great success. After Swanny’s death, Ann Eastbrook takes over as editor of the diaries.
Cary Oliver, a television producer, contacts Ann, asking to look at the original diaries for clues to a murder that occurred early in the century. She suggests that there are probably portions missing from the published diaries and hopes that the original diaries contain those pieces, which might shed light on the murder of Lizzie Roper in 1905 and the disappearance of her daughter Edith after the murder. Production of a documentary about the Roper murder leads, through a circuitous course involving the missing diary pages, to answers to both mysteries.