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What Happened to Anna K.

3.17  ·  Rating details ·  1,012 Ratings  ·  211 Reviews
A mesmerizing debut novel that reimagines Tolstoy's classic tragedy, Anna Karenina, for our time

Vivacious thirty-seven-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
ebook, 256 pages
Published August 12th 2008 by Touchstone (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.

Aug 16, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 05, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 18, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Krysten Hager
Mar 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I ended up starting and finishing this book in the same night. I had read Anna Karenina, so not like I expected the ending to be that much different, but the story really swept me up. It's a modern retelling of the story, but set in the U.S., but with Russian immigrants. Very intriguing and worth reading.
Sep 25, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, drama, tragedy
Tragic story about a Russian immigrant woman who could not realize any happiness with her husband or any man that came into her life. She was always looking for more. And she was not even sure what that more was.

Slowly, bit by bit, her world falls apart. Her losses are real.

Her beauty and beguiling ways lead to tragedy.
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
Jan 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Not bad at all! The author does some smart things to make some of the Anna Karenina plot fit a modern setting, but the characters lack life and depth. Recasting the cavalry officer Vronsky as an adjunct English professor, for example, is just inexplicable! Hardly the wealthy, dashing, romantic hero who sweeps Anna Karenina off her feet, here he just seems like some random guy who is temporarily more appealing than her boring husband. Likewise, the decision to give solid nice guy Lev (ie, Levin) ...more
Jul 17, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Feb 23, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Love. Love. Love.

This books affects me more each time i read it. Adoring Anna Karenina like I do, I never expected to enjoy a re-telling. But I do. It's haunting and lyrical. And so so sad.
Aug 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I needn't give you any hints about the plot because, supposedly, this story is a contemporary version of Anna Karenina. (Does this mean I have to go read the real thing, just so I know that last sentence is true?) Reyn set her version in New York among Russian Jewish immigrants. I loved peeking into their lives, their meals of sausages, beets and vodka, their wedding parties at Queens restaurants, their obsession with money, their strange nostalgia for a frozen and miserable homeland.

Reyn revea
A poor substitute for the original. The modern version does not pull on our heartstrings. She is only sad. In a modern setting there is no compelling reason was not taking charge for change.Is drifting what immigrants do?The classic was set in a time that new directions were not possible. While I was intrigued by the concept of this book, it did not succeed.
Farnoosh Brock
Apr 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
"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
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
Aug 22, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  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
Katrina Barrios
An interesting concept ruined by unlikeable characters. Tolstoy's Anna was the model aristocratic wife who suddenly became repulsed with her conventional lifestyle and St. Petersburg society. The Anna here is a dreamer. She's hot and reads books, but there isn't much to recommend her. She's self-absorbed, and I somehow can't see her mediating the marital spat of a close relative.

Lev (the Levin counterpart) is equally pretentious and you don't get the sense he learns anything at the end. While L
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
Jul 03, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 06, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Amy by: Elizabeth
"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
Dec 26, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 01, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's impossible to easily review any book that is a modern version of a classic. I am not opposed to the concept, and I think this take on Anna Karenina was certainly done in an interesting and sensible way. The problem was I found myself constantly distracted by the original. It's hard not to want to compare the two - that is half the fun and half the reason to read the update - but it's been a few years since I read Anna Karenina. Instead of thinking about the strengths of this book, I was alw ...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
Sep 10, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 you know it's not happily eve ...more
Feb 17, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Naima Haviland
Jul 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 01, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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Irina Reyn is the author of the forthcoming novel, THE IMPERIAL WIFE. Her first novel, WHAT HAPPENED TO ANNA K., was published in 2008.
She writes book reviews, essays, short stories and other things! Check out her website
More about Irina Reyn...
“For God's sake, even her parents no longer read Dostoyevsky--haven't they suffered enough, they would say; after thirty years of communism, didn't they DESERVE Danielle Steele?” 3 likes
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