Anna by Sammy HK Smith
Coming from Solaris 27th May
Minor spoilers ahead.
“I was Anna now. I must remember. They say you can tell someone’s personality from a name. Anna was gracious. Anna was compliant. I had to be Anna.”
After finishing this I felt like I’d been emotionally beaten. Which is kind of the point I guess. Be warned this book deals with sexual violence and domestic abuse and it’s told from the point of view of the victim. It doesn’t pull any punches and is unflinching. Our main character ‘Anna’ (she refuses to give her abuser her real name) lives, at the beginning of the book, in the Unlands in a post-collapse dystopia. She is captured, ‘owned’ and branded by a man who, for the minimalist and existentially terrifying part one of the book abuses her. (You know very little about how the world works in this first part, bits and pieces are drip fed but the unknown is claustrophobic here.)
Anna is held captive, literally chained up, and emotionally and physically abused with only brief periods of mental escape playing Monopoly with another branded captive. This was difficult reading but, as the foundation of part two, absolutely necessary to understanding Anna’s later new life (trying to minimise the spoilers here) where the people she trusts and likes see her abuser as a popular and nice guy. The psychological nature of the second part was difficult to read too, but in a much more emotional way. Smith kicks you in the head, in the heart and in the gut with this. Like I said it felt like I’d had an emotional beating when I finished reading it. It’s a book I think will stay with me. Did I like it, though? I’m not sure that’s the right question. If you ‘enjoyed’ The Road and Room then this is for you. Grab a blanket, a comforting hot drink, take a few deep breaths – and read.
Powerful stuff. Recommended. Pre-order here