Hello Biblioshelf friends, ghosts, dust particles, tumbleweed…!
It’s been a while hasn’t it?!
Anyway I particularly wanted to share these Musings with you about the book ‘Anna K’ by Jenny Lee. I received a free copy of this pre-publication through the brilliant website Readers First (which I have discussed a lot before) in exchange for a review. Many thanks to them and the publishers Penguin Random House Children’s. Below is my original review of Anna K which was published on the Readers First website back in March but I’ve updated it slightly here as I
couldn’t stop myself feel this is definitely going to be in my Top 10 Books of 2020.
Book: Anna K by Jenny Lee
Genre: YA (Personal and Social Issues – according to Readers First)
Publication Date: 5th March 2020
Publisher: Penguin Random House Children’s
Anna K Synopsis – from Goodreads
Meet Anna K. At seventeen, she is at the top of Manhattan and Greenwich society (even if she prefers the company of her horses and Newfoundland dogs); she has the perfect (if perfectly boring) boyfriend, Alexander W.; and she has always made her Korean-American father proud (even if he can be a little controlling). Meanwhile, Anna’s brother, Steven, and his girlfriend, Lolly, are trying to weather a sexting scandal; Lolly’s little sister, Kimmie, is struggling to recalibrate to normal life after an injury derails her ice dancing career; and Steven’s best friend, Dustin, is madly (and one-sidedly) in love with Kimmie.
As her friends struggle with the pitfalls of ordinary teenage life, Anna always seems to be able to sail gracefully above it all. That is…until the night she meets Alexia “Count” Vronsky at Grand Central. A notorious playboy who has bounced around boarding schools and who lives for his own pleasure, Alexia is everything Anna is not. But he has never been in love until he meets Anna, and maybe she hasn’t, either. As Alexia and Anna are pulled irresistibly together, she has to decide how much of her life she is willing to let go for the chance to be with him. And when a shocking revelation threatens to shatter their relationship, she is forced to question if she has ever known herself at all.
Dazzlingly opulent and emotionally riveting, Anna K.: A Love Storyis a brilliant reimagining of Leo Tolstoy’s timeless love story, Anna Karenina―but above all, it is a novel about the dizzying, glorious, heart-stopping experience of first love and first heartbreak.
Anna K is billed as a Gossip Girls/Crazy Rich Asians rebrand of the classic tale of Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. I haven’t read Anna Karenina (I don’t know the plot and haven’t seen the movie) 😱, neither have I seen Gossip Girl (also 😱); so it was the sheer vibrancy of the cover and the reference to Crazy Rich Asians which first tempted me to request this book…and it did not disappoint! [Side-note: I had to rewatch Crazy Rich Asians immediately after I finished reading!]
The story is told through several different perspectives (the character list at the start will be your pal in the opening chapters), however once you’re familiar with the who’s who of Anna K’s world, Steven, Lolly, Kimmy, Dustin, Vronsky and Anna rapidly become your literary new best friends. Their narratives are told with a realness and purity that kept me fully engrossed and bothered about what happened to them – I feel like if I travelled to New York (Covid-19 aside…) I would actually bump into them at Grand Central or Greenwich. The rich-kid lifestyles of how the other half live are documented in fantastic detail while retaining a light-hearted sense of humour which made me want to hop into their universe. I don’t quite know how realistic it is, whether the 16/17 year old of NYC’s Rich List really go about their lives this way… but that’s the whole reason we seek escapism in fiction isn’t it?!
Love, in all its forms, is a theme which runs strongly throughout every chapter and this nicely balances out the urban, trendy vibe coming from the city settings. After-all this is a love story, even without knowing the plot of Anna Karenina I know that Tolstoy’s Classic was supposed to a sweeping romantic epic. Jenny Lee has portrayed so many different polarities and shades of love through these chapters and characters, and this is by no-means an exhaustive list;
> there’s the all-consuming ‘love at first sight’
> there’s the love infatuation which apparently is enough to change any ‘player’ into the chivalric ‘knight-in-shining-armour’
> there’s the nitty-gritty ‘you’ve betrayed me but it’s made me love you more’
> there’s ‘I love my animals more than humans at the minute’ love
> there’s ‘redemptive love’ both in relationships and to themselves
> and then there’s Dustin – lovely sweet Dustin!
All in all, Jenny Lee’s take on Anna K, reminded me of a Sex and the City style / coming-of-age tale just perfect for today’s new YA generation. It’s a glittering novel just perfect for getting swept away in and I am super excited that it looks as if it’s going to be made into an HBO TV Series!! More info here. Whilst there might be trigger warnings for drug misuse, animal injury, death of a loved one and mental illness, this novel tackles most of those things in a sensitive way (there’s a fair amount of recreational drug use) but it still is rich with things to love and enjoy. I simply could not get enough of this book!! I consumed it quicker than I would my Cantonese sweet and sour chicken – it was unputdownable!