Anna K. by Jenny Lee (Book Review)

Publisher: Flatiron Books
Page Count
: 374

It’s time to make a confession: I have never read or watched Anna Karenina in all my life. Why is that little tidbit of info about me avoiding/being oblivious about a Russian classic vital to you in this very moment? Well, Anna K. is a the glorious modern retelling of said classic and I hereby freely admit that I have no way of comparing the two, but I hope that still gives me a “unique” view on the book. It definitely made me curious about the original novel, that’s for sure.

Every happy teenage girl is the same, while every unhappy teenage girl is miserable in her own special way.

This book really left me in some sort of emotional state of mind! It took me a bit to find my footing, but from the get go, Anna K. is a fast-paced whirlwind of amazing characters. A lot happens as you sort of play tag with the characters and switch from one POV to the next almost seamlessly. At first, I was a bit unsure of just the vast amount of characters, but they were interconnected beautifully and each had their own voice and personality and depth to them despite all of it being told in the 3rd person (to me that sometimes feels a little less personal, but not here). On the one hand, it felt like you were just observing the characters’ lives, but on the other hand, you had clear insight into all their motives and desires.

What I first believed to be a superficial glitzy love-at-first-sight teenage foolery, turned out to be so much more than that. I loved the upperclass Manhattan/Greenwich setting. I loved that Anna K. was a Korean-American teen and that her family’s tradition clashed and blended with American society standards. I adored the character dynamics and how everyone was connected in a more or less expected way. I loved how heightened and extra a lot of it was. At some point, there was one tragedy after the other and each time I thought my heart couldn’t possibly break any more, but then there was another one just around the corner. Yet, you don’t leave this book sad (maybe a little wistful), but rather full of hope and love for all these characters.

There’s not much fault one can find with this book in my opinion. The characters aren’t perfect paper cutouts, but actual human beings with faults and flaws. Anna and Steven even made it into my list of favourite literary characters and that’s not an easy one to get on. So, if you aren’t into cheating plotlines and characters using an excessive amount of drugs, maybe this isn’t the read for you. The love is also very … insta? Love at first sight in general comes quick to these characters. But if you want a Gossip Girl approach to a Russian classic (and I’ve been told Jenny Lee did a pretty remarkable job with the retelling) with a more diverse cast of characters, you should definitely check it out! I promise you will keep turning page after page in anticipation of what might happen next and how things could possibly go so terribly wrong for someone so lovely.

As a last thought, I would really encourage you to check out the Author’s Note at the end of the story. It really added even more spark to an already very entertaining and heartfelt rollercoaster of a read for me.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! A fun and emotional take on an old classic!

Have you read Anna K. or Anna Karenina for that matter? Would you be interested in doing so? Let’s chat!

Anne & Henry by Dawn Ius (Book Review)

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Publisher: Simon Pulse
Page Count
: 304

I think Anne & Henry was recommended to me by Goodreads after I had read Lock & Mori, because just like that book, it is a modern-day retelling with pre-existing characters – namely Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. I was instantly intrigued by it, because I am a mad sucker for those kind of contemporaries and always had a little obsession with the Tudors. So, just imagine my vast disappointment when this book did not work for me at all.

From what I gathered, Ius stuck to history as much as she could in this particular setting. I am not going to dwell on the fact that I wanted her to change history with her novel, give it some sort of twist of fate, because that was never promised anywhere, but somehow it still didn’t work. Anne and Henry meet right in the first chapter and have this weird mix of insta-lust and insta-love going on. Everything moves pretty fast from this point onward and it feels like barely weeks have passed throughout the novel, even though it were supposedly months. Henry turns his whole life upside down for Anne, but when it really counts, he isn’t able to choose her side.

I was really frustrated with this book, especially towards the end. There is a lot of slut-shaming going on, that I just don’t think is okay. Also, while Anne’s unjustified fate changed history back in the day, here it seems like she is just an insignificant blip in the lives of the townsfolk. I am not sure anyone will remember her and that sort of changes the essence of the original story.

My final problem was the writing in general. While it was fitting for teenagers, I just didn’t like Anne or Henry’s voice all that much, there were barely any redeeming characters in general. Anne seemed bold and strong, but even that couldn’t cover for her rash and rude behaviour. And Henry, he was just weak, trusting all the wrong people and having a fickle mind.
It did have some fun and steamy moments without a doubt, but in the end the whole thing just seemed so irrelevant and without depth. There were much bigger problems the characters should have faced, other than their doomed relationship, but they were only addressed on the surface.

Fazit: 2/5 stars! A good effort but in the end the story falls flat due to its insignificance.

2stars

So, I am afraid this isn’t exactly a read that I can recommend. However, I think the cover looks gloriously flashy on my shelf! Have you heard of this book? What is your stance on retellings?