What Happened to Anna K.
Now in paperback, this modern-day retelling of one of literature’s greatest novels has been hailed as a mesmerizing literary event, praised across the country for its voice, wisdom, ambition, and sheer storytelling flair. Vivacious thirty-seven-year-old Anna K. is comfortably married to Alex K., an older, prominent businessman in her tight-knit Russian immigrant community in Queens. But a longing for freedom is reignited in this bookish, overly romantic and imperious woman when she meets her beloved cousin Katia’s boyfriend, an outsider and aspiring young writer on whom she pins her hopes for escape. As they begin a reckless affair, Anna launches into a tailspin that alienates her from her husband, family, and entire world. Touching on struggles of identity, fidelity, and community, What Happened to Anna K. is a remarkable re-imagining of the Anna Karenina story brought vividly to life by a “marvelous” (San Francisco Chronicle) young writer.
Reading Group Guide
1. Though What Happened to Anna K. is a sharply contemporary novel, there are many structural nods to its source material, such as the introduction to new characters through the impersonal perspective of the wedding videographer. How else is the narrative like that of a nineteenth-century novel? Why do you think David's perspective is never fully revealed, unlike most of the other characters in the novel?
2. Describe the various types of romantic idealism depicted in the novel. Is there a conflict between Anna's traditional romanticism, tied to heroes like Darcy and Heathcliff, and her dreams of a Woody Allen-style New York love affair? How do these imagined passions compare to Lev's longing for the romance of French films? How do these scenarios contrast with real life? In what ways are these ideals destructive?
3. Anna is seen both from her own perspective and through the eyes of others. How does her sense of herself differ from how she is perceived? Is her own vision of herself the true one, or is she at times blind to truths that others observe?
4. In what ways is beauty used as currency in Anna's world? Why do you think Anna's aging changes her outlook so dramatically? If she had not been raised with the goal of attractiveness, would her story have been different? Do you think this standard for women is universal or specific to Anna's community?
5. Why do you think Anna never voice see more