books, reviews

Book Review: Anna K. – Jenny Lee

Meet Anna K! Every happy teenage girl is the same, while every unhappy teenage girl is miserable in her own special way…

At seventeen, Anna K is at the top of Manhattan and Greenwich society (even if she prefers the company of her horses and dogs); she has the perfect (if perfectly boring) boyfriend, Alexander W.; and she has always made her Korean-American father proud (even if he can be a little controlling). Meanwhile, Anna’s brother, Steven, and his girlfriend, Lolly, are trying to weather an sexting scandal; Lolly’s little sister, Kimmie, is struggling to recalibrate to normal life after an injury derails her ice dancing career; and Steven’s best friend, Dustin, is madly (and one-sidedly) in love with Kimmie.

As her friends struggle with the pitfalls of ordinary teenage life, Anna always seems to be able to sail gracefully above it all. That is…until the night she meets Alexia “Count” Vronsky at Grand Central. A notorious playboy who has bounced around boarding schools and who lives for his own pleasure, Alexia is everything Anna is not. But he has never been in love until he meets Anna, and maybe she hasn’t, either. As Alexia and Anna are pulled irresistibly together, she has to decide how much of her life she is willing to let go for the chance to be with him. And when a shocking revelation threatens to shatter their relationship, she is forced to question if she has ever known herself at all.

Dazzlingly opulent and emotionally riveting, Anna K: A Love Story is a brilliant reimagining of Leo Tolstoy’s timeless love story, Anna Karenina—but above all, it is a novel about the dizzying, glorious, heart-stopping experience of first love and first heartbreak.

My thoughts:

A wonderful retelling of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina on the Upper East Side, with a Korean-American Anna, courtesy of the author’s own heritage.

Anna Karenina is of course hugely tragic, and while this shares some of that, it is a much more gentle book, I definitely cried more at the Russian original.

There’s humour among the moments of sadness, and it’s very Gossip Girl for a new century at times, so no surprise that it’s already being adapted as a TV series by HBO.

With an ethnically diverse cast, and social media as the way gossip spreads, as opposed to Tolstoy’s letters and whispers, this is a smart, fierce update.

Jenny Lee’s writing is assured and she clearly knows her source material, Anna and Vronsky are sympathetic characters, even though they’re not always on the moral high ground.

The other characters are also well drawn and interesting, the subplots enjoyable and fully formed, creating a whole world around the great love story at the heart.

I was gifted a copy of this book by the publisher with no obligation to review.

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