What Happened to Anna K

What Happened to Anna K

A Novel

Book - 2008
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Vivacious 37-year-old Anna K. is comfortably married to Alex, an older, prominent businessman from her tight-knit Russian-Jewish immigrant community in Queens. But a longing for freedom is reignited in this bookish, overly romantic, and imperious woman when she meets her cousin Katia Zavurov's boyfriend.
Publisher: New York : Simon & Schuster, [2008]
Copyright Date: ©2008
ISBN: 9781416558934
Characteristics: 244 pages ; 24 cm


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Feb 04, 2018

There is some of the kaleidoscopic perspective that made Tolstoy's work great- we see that the updated Anna K. has painfully acquired the persona of the mysterious, elegant femme fatale because from a young age she has been treated as "other" or "immigrant" and she was told by family to forget the person that she used to be before she came to the US, no matter how genuine that person was. Unfortunately, the submersion into books and the perfection of projection of fantasy has left her a shell of a person, with no genuine inner life and no real satisfaction when she achieves her fantasy. Her solution isn't to look further into herself but to literally become a fantasy- much of what propels her to leave her husband is the opportunity to become someone's muse.

The author hints a few times at what lies beneath the surface of the seemingly dull exterior of life, but doesn't have Anna or the other characters explore it. She knows about her husband's former lovers, but doesn't know about his former interests or what his inner life is or was. It isn't until the end of their functional relationship that she realizes what she might have missed, but then it drops.

The character of Lev has been updated to a pharmacist/French film buff. The modern version moves more extremely from "right" to "wrong" than the original. He wants to marry the wrongly slandered Katia and wants to make his parents happy, and is convinced he can have both. However, after meeting Anna, he is consumed with thoughts of her. He, too, idealizes people- Katia, in his mind, is an updated version of a mythical, pure Russian heroine- and is disappointed when the reality is just that.

Just about everyone in this story suffers from over-idealization. The updated Vronsky (David) is here less of a swaggering cad than in the original and he has more genuine feelings for Katia, but he, too, can't relate to her as a person but only as a personification of "the innocent immigrant". Overall, however, he is not nearly as attractive on any level as the original, and only the somewhat muddled back story the author provides about Anna's fascination with teachers and authors explains (in some part) why Anna would be attracted to this person in the first place.

One gets the sense reading this story that what dooms Anna more than anything is her age. The older she gets, the more obsessed she becomes with how much her time is running out and how she needs to start again. She seems to not only age but degrade- where she was dignified in her black dresses and shearling stoles in her mid and late thirties, she is vulgar and cheap in her early forties. This aspect of the story was the hardest to relate to- ageism may be alive and well in the 21st century, but the level to which she felt condemned by her age didn't ring true, especially when so many people her age and older are starting over in this economy.

This isn't so much an update of a classic as it is another version of the conflict between tradition and the American dreams. I think this story would have been better if it had been developed more in that direction, but overall, a pleasant way to pass a few hours.

Apr 14, 2015

Reyn has chosen to taken the essence of Anna Karenina, using the New York City Russian-Jewish community for the setting and characters. 21st century people aren’t any more enthralled with a wife’s infidelity than they were in 18th century Russia. Beyond the story plot which you can read in many places, I was entranced with the variety of characters as well as what appear to be the insular communities of the Jewish immigrants. I’m glad I read this debut novel. Reyn was able to take me into a segment of American live of which I knew nothing.

crankylibrarian Nov 01, 2011

The classic story reimagined in the insular world of Bukharian Jewish immigrants in Queens. Anna, Lev and Katia (standing in for Levin and Kitty) struggle with their conflicting identities as Russians, Jews, and would-be Americans:tragedy arises from their failure to distinguish their true natures from their fantasies. Poignant, beautifully written,with flashes of wry humor: the matchmaker hired by Lev's increasingly desperate parents coolly assesses his chances at Bukharian matrimony: "There is no need to think Ashkenazi just yet".

Aug 18, 2008

People magazine gave it 4/4 stars.

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