My Rating: 9.5/10
Beaten. Branded. Defiant.
Anna is a possession. She is owned by the man named Will, shielded from the world of struggles by his care. He loves her, protects her and then breaks her. Anna is obedient, dutiful and compliant. Anna does not know her place in the world.
When she falls pregnant, Anna leaves her name behind, and finds the strength to run. But the past – and Will – catch up with her in an idyllic town with a dark secret, and this time, it’s not just Anna who is at risk.
As soon as I saw Rebellion was publishing Anna by Sammy H.K. Smith, I knew I had to get my hands on it. Reading the synopsis set off all of my “must read” buzzers. Thank you to the publishing team for the ARC in exchange for an honest review! I love dystopian fiction that is a bit too close to reality, because it reminds us of how easily everything could fall down if we let it. Anna takes place in the aftermath of a World War that left countries decimated and people to fend for themselves, creating pockets of civilization that balance out the lawless Unlands. Our main character has been traveling alone for two years when she is captured by a man named Will and takes on the name Anna, learning to be submissive to her captor.
Don’t go into a book about the enslavement of women in a collapsed society expecting sunshine and rainbows. I’ve seen reviewers that are disappointed that the book has a dark tone and unsettling subject matter. There’s triggering events, so be warned. Women are treated as property and are raped, abused mentally and physically, etc. Know that before you go in and prepare, or don’t read it. It is compared to The Handmaid’s Tale and if you’ve read or watched that, you’ll have an idea of what to expect. For that comparision, I found Anna altogether more hopeful AND more brutal that the written work of Handmaid’s Tale. It’s more graphically worded, but it doesn’t fall to a completely melancholic tone the way the HT novel does.
This book was beautifully and artfully presented. With subject matter like this, if the author is making your skin crawl, they’re doing a good job. I found myself constantly trying to get back to reading Anna despite it being a tough read. I know this type of book isn’t everyone’s thing, but I think novels like this are a good thing, as we are reminded of the past and how quickly our basic human rights can be taken away in the face of societal collapse. This was because of the aftermath of the war, but it bears warning that if we don’t have a voice as a body of people, progress can easily be lost. There’s always going to be people that want control over others around them and when they are given the chance, they will take it. We don’t need to know the story behind why the abusers are they way they are, because it is as simple as that. There’s people who function and follow rules in a well-ran society, but once chaos reigns, will take advantage simply because they can. Even when Anna makes it to a well-ran town, she will have to watch her back.
In Anna, you’ll watch her make decisions to keep herself alive. Sometimes these seem weak, but are what need to be done in the face of preservation. You’ll see her be brave. You’ll see her confront and alternatively, be submissive. She has learned to do what it takes at which moment. Sometimes she accepts her abuse because it gains her another day. Sometimes she will use an opportunity to fight back. At moments, she experiences a bit of Stockholm Syndrome, where she wonders if she’s better with her captor or on her own. You’ll want to scream at her but you’ll remember this is a trauma victim facing life or death. This eerie, atmospheric read will sink into your bones and stick with you long after you’ve finished it. I’ll definitely be looking into more of Sammy H.K. Smith’s works.