Anna by Sammy H.K Smith is quite possibly my book of the year. After I had finished reading it, I scolded myself for not reading it sooner. Anna tells the story of one woman’s battle to survive in a world gone wrong. She is captured by a man who brands her. She is forced to learn how to behave to make him happy in order to avoid his wrath and have any hope of regaining her freedom.
This book is brutal. Never before have I felt both eager to turn to the next page and heavy dread for the reveal of what is coming next in equal measure. My heart kept hammering the whole way throughout and even in moments where Anna’s torturer was not present, I felt the fear of his return. I read this book in two sittings. I put it down for a nap and woke up thinking about wanting to pick it up again. When I got to just a few pages to the end I got scared of how it might end. I yelled at Anna at times in the same way I have shouted at heroines in horror movies before, willing them to live.
Now that it’s finished, I can’t stop thinking about it. It creeps over you, this book. The narrative is smothering and the protagonist’s voice is so compelling. I felt like I was Anna at points and the reason for this is that despite this being a work of fiction, Sammy H.K. Smith perfectly captures what it like to be a woman in the real world.
The constant feeling of being watched, not quite filling everyone expectations, the fear of men. Even the ones you think you’re safe with, you still sometimes have to keep your guard up with. The one thing that really struck me was the way that Smith made a point of how when people say nothing, it speaks volumes. Not just about what Anna or her abuser didn’t say but also what those watching her being abused didn’t say.
There were points where I wondered if both Anna, as a character and myself, as a reader could take anymore. At this point Smith, managed to break the tension like a fever and allow in a little relief. To say I love this book might be a bit of an understatement. I found Sammy H.K. Smith’s style quite intoxicating at points. The language felt viscous and thick like syrup which was just wonderful to experience.
I loved Anna by Sammy H.K. Smith. A story hasn’t stuck to me this much since I spent a couple of months trying to decide how I felt about Bram Stoker’s Dracula! I would absolutely recommend you read Anna but I’ll warn you to expect a reading hangover for this one. If you are a fan of Angela Carter’s books such as The Passion of New Eve, if you love the novels of Jeanette Winterson, Margaret Atwood or are just a fan of women writers who aren’t scared to explore the darker side of the female experience then this book is for you. If I could afford it, I’d buy you a copy and force it in to your hands, that’s how much I want you to read it.
Really, you must!