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What Happened to Anna K.: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 12, 2008

3.8 out of 5 stars 80 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best of the Month, August 2008: With her fresh reinvention of Anna Karenina, Irina Reyn finds her tragic heroine in the Russian-Jewish immigrants of New York's outer boroughs. As in the Tolstoy, an impetuous woman wasting in a sterile marriage succumbs to a destined-for-disaster love affair with a dashing young man, and is bitterly condemned by a society fraught with hypocrisy; like citizens of19th-century Russia, modern-day Bukharians don't take kindly to wifely infidelity. With an ear for witty dialogue and a knack for imagery both sharp and sensuous, Reyn gives a pixel-perfect depiction of Anna's world. Those caught in her undertow are equally multidimensional, most with their own struggles between loyalty to self and longing for community acceptance. Even those who haven't experienced Tolstoy will be rapt. --Mari Malcolm

From Publishers Weekly

Set among early 21st-century Russian Jewish immigrants in New York City, Reyn's debut beautifully adapts Anna Karenina's social melodrama for a decidedly different set of Russians. Anna, 30-something with a string of bad relationships behind her and a restless, literarily inclined soul, is wooed into marriage by the financial stability and social appropriateness of Alex K., an older businessman with roots in her Rego Park, Queens, community. As Anna chafes at her unromantic life, trouble hits in the form of David, the hipster-writer boyfriend of her sweet, naïve cousin, Katia. The furiously flying sparks between Anna and David provide cover as Katia is quietly pursued by Lev, a young Bukharan Jew who, like Anna, is a dreamer whose relationship with the émigré community is fraught. Reyn's Anna is perhaps even harder to sympathize with than Tolstoy's original, but Reyn's sparkling insight into the Russian and Bukharan Jewish communities, and the mesmerizing intensity of her prose, make this debut a worthy remake. Lev's and Anna's divergent trajectories and choices illuminate how perilous the balance between self and society remains. (Aug.)
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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; 1st Touchstone Hardcover Ed edition (August 12, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416558934
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416558934
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,425,044 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Liat2768 TOP 1000 REVIEWER on August 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
If you've read Tolstoy's Karenina you more or less know what to expect of the plot. Unhappily married woman has an affair, abandons her family and so on and so forth. There is more to this book than that.

Anna K comes from a Russian Jewish community in Rego Park but at no point does she feel as if she belongs. A misfit who loves literature and dreams of being the inspiration for the next great work of literature, she settles for wealth and marries Alex, a successful Russian businessman; has a child who she is not terribly attached to and falls for another lover of literature. The secondary plot is of the love between Lev and Katia who belong to the Bukharan Jewish community which still holds tightly to its cultural rules and traditions.

Reyn has trimmed many subplots from the original to create a more streamlined book. Unfortunately the trials of tribulations of the original Anna K do not carry over well into this age of emancipation. Divorce is no longer the taboo it was in Tolstoy's time and a languishing, unemployed, dependent and unhappy woman in the modern age can be hard to sympathise with. Anna's choices seem odd in this day and age. She marries Alex for his money, is often a contemptuous snob and at best is a dreamer who works very hard to sabotage her own happiness.

Reyn's writing, though, is wonderful. Her control of language, her ability to draw a picture with words and her creation of a window into the Russian immigrant communities in Queens is excellent. The story of Lev and Katia (Levin and Kitty in the original) is well drawn. The Bukharan community that they belong to, with its rules, chauvinistic attitudes and codes of honor were fascinating.

As a debut novel this work does much to show the author's potential. If the book failed for me it was because the shadow of the original Karenina sat too heavy on it and the character's choices did not translate well into the modern world.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I'll start by saying that it's been years since I read Tolstoy's classic, ANNA KARENINA, the book on which WHAT HAPPENED TO ANNA K. is a modern "retelling". Therefore, I will not make comparisons and the review will be on this novel as it stands alone.

WHAT HAPPENED TO ANNA K. is a well written, evocative tale whose central character, Anna K., is a Russian immigrant of Jewish descent living in modern day Queens, N.Y. She is portrayed, interestingly, as a highly self conscious provocateur whose vanity is barely overshadowed by her egocentricity. Somewhat surprisingly, this is not to say she is necessarily lacking in admirable traits. We can certainly sympathize with her struggles of identity, independence, and communal convention. Early in the book, we see Anna as a woman in her mid 20s whose expectations of a mate are the literary amalgam of Heathcliff and Darcy. What she gets, years later, is Alex K., a successful businessman of like heritage who is more inclined toward the pedantic.... Although the union produces a son, the book's predominant theme has little to do with family but rather Anna's romantic relationships and adultery.

Despite the author's ability to tell an excellent story with very well drawn characters, it was sometimes difficult for me to follow the thread that held the fragments/stories together. We have the tale of a rather self obsessed and dispassionate woman who seems to always be looking for a "greener pasture". Money, in this case, is not the motivating force. As the book puts it at one point, Anna is looking for a mate/husband who not only possesses the courage and strength to be a warrior but also the intellectual and literary gifts to then turn around and write about the fight.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I just finished Tolstoy's Anna Karenina a few weeks ago, so when I was offered this re-telling of that classic story to review for the Amazon Vine program, the timing was serendipitous.

In this modern version, author Irina Reyn is faithful to the original yet manages to give it a thoroughly fresh, original flavor, and the good news is that although familiarity with Tolstoy's Anna will make Reyn's version all the more enjoyable in making the inevitable connections and comparisons, I don't believe it necessary to have read Tolstoy to enjoy Reyn's take.

The theme is the same, and it's one whose consequences haven't really changed as much as we might think in the more than 100 years that have passed between tellings. We get to meet Anna here before her marriage to Alex, when she is a 37-year old beauty in a Russian-Jewish enclave of NYC, lovely and admired, cultured and educated, but troublingly single. Things haven't really changed much in society, and less so in immigrant populations, where a 37-year old single woman in danger of never marrying or having children is a crisis. So she marries.

She knows from the beginning that she feels no passion for her husband either physically or emotionally, but finds comfort in the securities of marriage and motherhood. When she meets David, their affair brings to light all of the ways Anna has covered up her own sense of self, but what I got from it was even more alarming: the more glaring fact that that may very well be due to the fact that there is perhaps not much there to cover up. For Anna is, underneath her elegant and mysterious demeanor, empty and unremarkable. What does she really care about?
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