“What Happened to Anna K”

August 20, 2008 at 3:47 pm | Posted in Fiction | Leave a comment

What Happened to Anna K is that Irina Reyn decided to write an updated version of one of the masterpieces of world literature.  This is an entirely separate feat from writing a successful novel, so I will evaluate them separately.


In the interests of full disclosure, I will relate that if you went to the Aloha High School library and looked in the back of their Anna Karenina, you’d find my student ID stamped three times in a row.  I didn’t read as fast back then, and I just couldn’t get through the book in the allotted time.  I was determined, though, and a slave to Tolstoy, so I persisted.  (Once I start a book, it takes an Act of Congress for me to stop without completing it, and if for some reason I have to relinquish an incompletely read book, I write it down so that I can go get it later).  I understand, though, that not everyone has the desire to read what I privately refer to as BFBs, or Big Fat Books.


This is where What Happened to Anna K comes in: it’s the Beach Read version.  If you’re a Great Literature snob, you might find this book interesting, though presumptuous.  It’s like the low-fat diet version of the original, lacking most of the calories but with a recognizable facsimile of the flavor.


If you’re more interested in enjoying a book than in checking the title off a big list, you might prefer to leave off the fact that this novel is a “remake” of another book.  In this case, you’ll be fine.  It’s a fast read and well written, though painted with a fairly broad brush, for instance when the main character’s book club wants to read a Sophie Kinsella novel next month.  (I’ve read two or three of these, and they’re great fun, but you can imagine why they might not rank up there with Fire in the Blood among great book club reads).


Personally, I find adultery stories to be irritating.  To me there is no justification for lying to your partner, especially if the reason you’re doing it is to avoid relinquishing material comforts of some kind.  Granted, in earlier times women had little choice in whom to marry or whether to marry at all, and no way out once they were in.  Now that we’re in a new millennium, this rationale wears a little thin.  That said, Reyn succeeds in her rendering of Anna K., not so much sympathetically as believably self-absorbed, hungry for romance, charismatic, and impulsive.


About the letter K: is it the lowercase i of literature?  Here we have a book in which two characters are referred to by their last initial, K, while other characters get a real last name.  It’s noticeable yet gimmicky, like the little girl in the red dress in Schindler’s List, and you’ll have to tell me how effective you think it is.  On the other hand, we have The Brothers K, in which the characters get real last names even through their story is partially based on another Russian literary masterpiece.  It would be interesting to combine the two stories and see how everyone gets along

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