Hello. It is me, your retelling obsessed librarian here with another review of a classic novel turned modern.
And can I just say that everyone is on their A game this year? I haven’t read a flop in months and most of them have honestly been some version of a retelling. There was Only Mostly Devastated and A Thousand Ship. I’m looking at my copy of Hagseed now thinking I may give Atwood and her crack at The Tempest another try, given my recent luck.
Anyway, today I am here to talk to you about Anna K. I’m sure you’ve been seeing the cover around. It screams teen drama. Which is perfect because Anna K is a retelling of Anna Karenina. It is a pretty true retelling at that. Except swap Russia with New York and all the high society functions with dog shows and NYC private schools. It is basically Gossip Girl but with Tolstoy added in.
As someone who really did love the Tolstoy classic I was skeptical. I loved the interconnected stories and the high level of drama and eunni. I wasn’t sure if the source material would lend itself to such a modern setting, but selecting the very privileged setting of private school Manhattan was brilliant. If anything the motivation of everyone’s favorite Tolstoy characters makes more sense coming from a 17 year old.
Anna K was completely immersive. While I clearly am a lover of the source material this is an instance where I think a reader could go in blind. You don’t need to know about the upcoming love triangles, the side characters, or anyones tragic backstory. Lee fleshes out all of her characters. You won’t miss anything from having not read Anna Karenina. I always think that this, the ability to read a retelling on its own, is pretty high praise.
Lee’s prose is also brilliant. She is firmly in the mind of these over privileged teenagers and is guiding them ever so slowly to their impending fates. Anna K was a story I couldn’t put down because of Lee. In lesser hands this is a story that could flounder in an opulent setting but without real emotion. Not here.
If you like YA drama, Tolstoy novels, Gossip Girl, or really just a romp through old money NYC give Anna K a try. It is easily one of the most surprising books I have read this year.