What Happened to Anna K.
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What Happened to Anna K.

3.16 of 5 stars 3.16  ·  rating details  ·  858 ratings  ·  196 reviews

A mesmerizing novel that reimagines Tolstoy's classic tragedy Anna Karenina for our time.

Paperback, 256 pages
Published May 19th 2009 by Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group (first published 2008)
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switterbug (Betsey)
In her debut novel, Irina Reyn writes lovely, luminous prose in a gentle, intelligent style. What kept me anchored to this story was her eloquent narrative flow--her evocative passages and her penetrating look at Russian Jewish immigrant life in Queens. What ultimately fizzled and fell short for me was Reyn's rendering of the re-imagined Tolstoy classic. Rather than the bracing and exuberant experience I had reading Anna Karenina, I felt constricted, claustrophobic, hemmed in by this version.

Where to begin...I am an ardent fan of the original Anna Karenina, written by Tolstoy who can deftly balance tragedy and simple beauty without coming off as maudlin or overwrought. The idea of bringing Anna into modern day New York was very interesting to me, and I was excited to see how Irena did this. It turned out to be a cute book, a quick read, a good "book for the time being until something really good turned up". Not one of the characters were likeable, they were all horrible twittering d...more
I read this book primarily because it's being considered for a book fair. I'll admit, the cover page intrigued me. A tale of a young woman searching for love --all the good stuff. This book, based on the story of Anna Karenina by Tolstoy is set in modern day NYC with Anna K, a woman of 30-40ish years old. I have never read Tolstoy's story so I cannot compare the 2.

Although I enjoyed reading about the impact of immigration on Anna and her family, the daily lives of Russian immigrants, and some o...more
This is a brilliant transposition of the story of Anna Karenina from Imperial Russia to modern Jewish New York. Reyn has kept the essence of the characters and the spirit of the story alive. She manages to make the characters sympathetic and easy to understand for modern readers. The actual writing is so exquisite that I didn't want to finish this book!

Clever and beautiful with her curves and dark, wavy hair, Anna K. envisions a brilliant future for herself even though she comes from a poor Russ...more
Luckily I haven't read Anna Karenina yet so I didn't compare this book to that & read it with an open mind without Tolstoy looming over everything. I really enjoyed this writer, I think she writes lovely & the story was a good one. Anna K. was unlikable in that her actions were not those you really approve of & yet she still possesses the sad quality that makes you feel really bad for her & your sympathy takes you till the end with her even as you dislike her choices. The author...more
I enjoyed this book probably as much for its detailed accounting of Russian immigrant life as anything. Reyn's prose is rich and fulfilling, but the story of "Anna Karenina" was always depressing, and it seems even more so when transplanted to modern day New York. And Anna herself is not a character that evokes a great deal of sympathy in my soul. However, after breezing through the Twilight series, this type of writing was a nice change of pace.

I would also suggest that anyone too "taken" with...more
A very sad story about love, loss, immigration, religion, bad decisions. The lead character, Anna K, first generation American and from a Russian, Bukharian Jewish background, makes one bad decision after another trying to find her way in the chaos of NYC and the United States. None of the characters are likeable and least of all Anna K, but her story is so sad that by the end, I was routing for her to pull herself together and do the right thing but that was not in the cards.
I really enjoyed this book. Anna Karenina is one of my all time favorite books and in this novel, Irina Reyn updates the story to contemporary NYC. Specifically, this Anna K lives in Rego Park in the Russian-Bukharian immigrant community. I especially enjoyed the glimpses into this world, a world I actually know something about since I lived in Rego Park for about ten years and knew many Georgian immigrants, plus some Russians and Bukharians.
You needn't have read Tolstoy's classic to follow this story as it certainly can stand on it's own. Irina Reyn cleverly re-tells his story but from a fresh, modern day twist, albeit heavy on the sentence fragments for what I am assuming "literary style". This heroine, Anna K, unknowingly suffers narcissitic personality disorder and combined with her perspective of her Russian-American upbringing makes for an interesting page turner. And yet, as much as I wanted to like this character, she never...more
"What Happened to Anna K." is a modern day version of Anna Karenina. I loved "Anna Karenina" but did find some of the political and farming discussions to be a bit over my head. In the modern version there was nothing that was over my head and it made for a fast read. I believe the characters were better developed in Tolstoy's original (that is why it is the classic). I found them more enjoyable in Tolstoy's and in fact felt attached to certain characters...especially Levin. The names are change...more
The Joy of Booking
It's rare that a modern retelling can be better than the original. To be honest, I'm not sure that's what happened here, but I do know that I don't feel like I need to go read Anna Karenina now, and that's a cool thing.

Anna, a 30-something New Yorker in the Jewish Russian immigrant community, finally settles down because she feels like she's supposed to. Alex K. seems nice enough, he's financially stable, and it'll finally get her mother off her back. Of course, no sooner is she settled than she...more
Impressive debut novel! Taking inspiration from Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, Irina Reyn brings Anna's character into the 21st century. In Reyn's imagination, Anna is a Russian-Jewish immigrant living in New York. In a comfortable marriage to an older man, Anna feels restless and unfulfilled, and begins a reckless affair with her cousin Katya's boyfriend.

I loved absolutely everything about this novel - from the mesmerizing descriptions, to novel's tragic sense of humor and the hopeless characters. Be...more
Cory Sabin
For the most part I think this was well written but the strengths of the characters that made me love Tolstoy's original didn't seem to be present. When I initially started reading Anna Karenina, it was easy for me to identify w/ and admire the strengths of certain characters (i.e. Levin's righteousness and passion or Alexei's victimhood and uprightness) and also despise the negative characteristics of other characters (i.e. Vronsky's amorality and Anna's dishonesty and selfishness). What I like...more
Sep 01, 2008 Irene rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Irene by: Jeans
Shelves: 2008
I've never read Anna Karenina. This novel is a modern twist on a character based on the Anna Karenina of Tolstoy's imagination. Here's what I liked.

The idea that the character can be placed anywere in time anywhere in the world and still be believable.

The milieu of the characters and the Russian Jewish immigrant community of the NY boroughs, of which I am a product.

The fact that not all readers of this novel will have an inkling of the "inside jokes" written herein. Things like, zakuski, or the...more
Farnoosh Brock
Words fall short in describing the gripping writing style of Irina Reyn.

I had no expectation of this book when I first ordered it and this was before I read Leo Tolstoy's Anna K. With the story of Anna K in Irina's beautiful words, I was captivated from the first page, from the opening sentence, to the very last page. She knows so well how to tell a story, how to draw you in, how to draw such vivid images of the characters in this book. Anna is self-doomed - she lives in the past and she longs...more
This hit too close to home, but that is not the reason I did not give it more stars. The book is a modern day Anna Karenina story set in Rego Park, Queens where my family is from. It is very well written and definitely a page turner. While Reyn, who also grew up in Rego Park and whose family immigrated from Moscow when she was 7 describes many details of neighborhood and immigrant life with uncanny, insider accuracy, she focuses on only a narrow aspect of it, which is what made it frustrating fo...more
I really wanted to read this becasue EW called it one of the best of 2008. Having devoted myself to Anna Karenina for a period of time (that was not a quick read as this was...) I found the concept of this book intriguing. There are some problems with this book, however, and with the very concept of it. Anna Karenina is a Russian book set in a time very different from our own. The beliefs, customs and culture are foreign to what we understand today. Therefore, I find it difficult to buy this 200...more
"It's a great idea, but...", Liz said when she gave it to me. And she was right. Great idea. In fact, I love the idea of retelling Anna Karenina in today's world. And some parts of the book, particularly the opening and the visits via the story to Brooklyn and Queens, delighted me. It's that "but" that is the kicker. I found myself slogging through the middle part, wondering if it was all worth it. (After all, I know how the real one ends. It's only a matter of curiosity to see if it's a subway...more
I loved Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina", which I recently read, and a friend recommended, "What Happened to Anna K." I really enjoyed this novel, and found it a terrific reimagined tribute to "Anna Karenina", but with its own unique voice, perspective and narrative. The modern story of Russian immigrants in New York - who moved to the US as young children - stands on its own, but is enhanced by a background knowledge of Tolstoy's classic. The novel's strengths reside in the characters' struggles to co...more
Just like Anna Karenina, it becomes clear very early on that this story is NOT going to have a happy ending. Here Anna Karenina is living and behaving badly in today's Queens--her parents emigrated from Russia when she was a child. She has a job, working in publishing (!) selling foreign rights. As the story goes,she's in her mid 30s, single and begins to feel pressured by the Russian Jewish community. Soon, she meets a dull, but respectful and wealthy man and....as you know it's not happily eve...more
I enjoyed this book-it is based on the character Anna Karenina given to us by Lev Tolstoy. An interesting interpretation of how her life might have been in the present day- being a Russian immigrant in New York living among other Russian immigrants and feeling the tug of the new against the traditions of the past.

Not one of my favorites- reading was more of a labor than sheer delight- when pages are turned without even realizing it and I am swallowed whole by the story and only emerge when jilte...more
I really love Anna Karenina, and I'm eager to go back and re-read it now. I remember Tolstoy's characters being much more likeable, but I'm not sure if that's because they were written better or with more empathy ... or whether it's easier to sympathize with characters dealing with the constraints of their time.

Anna K in modern NYC has more liberation and, despite the trappings of culture (expectations for Russian-American Jews) and wealth (trying to live up to it), it's hard to like her. I can...more
Read this along with Anna Karenina for an amazing read. I read Anna K. up to the last few chapter than went back to Tolstoy and read Karenina cover to cover -- heightening the experience of Irina Reyn's brilliant update to Brighton Beach and the Upper EastSide of Manhattan of Anna's story. One can see how Tolstoy is infused into Anna K. not taken scene for scene but informs and inbues Reyn's writing a modern version of these character types. AND the added plus of understanding the immigrant expe...more
I was excited to read this book, intrigued by the idea of Anna's character. Towards the middle of the book, I felt it drag. The only character I found remotely likeable was Katia, Anna's younger cousin, and only because I felt sorry for her being overshadowed by Anna. Overall, I found the characters dull and underdeveloped. I think we, as readers, are supposed to feel sorry for Anna, but I just kept getting annoyed by her and her stupid, selfish "choices". About the last third of the book, finis...more
I purchased this book awhile ago, while I was still in the middle of the original Anna Karenina, anticipating wanting to read a modern take on the story. Early on, I thought it would be interesting to see how it could translate to a contemporary setting, how it might compare and what may be different due to technology and possibly location.

The first thing I noticed was how well the author managed to capture the same tone that existed in the original novel. It’s hard to describe, and maybe the to...more
Naima Haviland
At first, the experience of reading this book was like Anna's relationship with the man who became her husband: it wasn't thrilling, but it was easy to go along with. However, midway through the book the plot picked up and swept me along. The world Irina Reyn created feels very real. You can see it. You can hear the voices. You can even smell the food. And she lets you in on Anna's inner world, from her childhood in Russia to her coming of age as the daughter of Russian defectors making a new li...more
If you liked Anna Karenina, and you can enjoy intimate humor from the lives of Russian Jewish immigrants in contemporary Rego Park and Brighton Beach, you will -- as I did -- love this book. I found it by chance in the Hedgebrook library, and picked it up because I had recently reread Anna Karenina (the real one). Once I did, I couldn't put it down. Reyn adheres to key themes, characters and plot points of the great Tolstoy, but has a keen wit, a deliciously breezy style, and a deep insight into...more
Liz Dean
I can't say why I'm reading this book, because Anna Karenina was so disappointing to me. But it was the type of story I was looking for (modern, urban, adultery) so I picked it up, and so far I like it. I look forward to meeting Lev/Levin - the French film buff pharmacist.

Update upon finishing:
I loved it. It emphasized the incredibly moving parts of Anna Karenina for me. What's missing is the 19th century page long meditations on a single aspect of character. And those are nice, but tedious aft...more
I was surprised to find how much I liked this book. I literally could not put it down last night until I finished it. I read Anna Karenina back in high school, and I don't remember much except a vague tone of discontent and tragedy and, of course, the final climactic scene. This modern remake seems to capture Tolstoy's tone exactly. Anna K. is a trainwreck of a character (pardon the pun), and you just can't look away as she makes one terrible choice after another. The author does a great job not...more
Aug 03, 2009 Ann rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ann by: Entertainment Weekly
This is book 5/10 from my Entertainment Weekly list of ten outstanding books of 2008.

Somehow my education did not contain exposure to Tolstoy's Anna Karenina and maybe in this instance it's a good thing. Those who knew the original did not seem to like What Happened to Anna K.? as well as I did. I found the story engrossing and an interesting portrait of a beautiful young Russian immigrant in New York City as she ages who can only define herself through her conquests.

It reminded me of a Stephen...more
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