Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Tash Hearts Tolstoy, by Kathryn Ormsbee

Tash and her best friend Jack have been producing a homespun web-based serial of Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina called "Unhappy Families."  It's just something she and a bunch of her friends put together and they get a few dozen hits.  But suddenly one day, the show picks up a mention from an influencer and it blows up.  Tens of thousands of followers later, fan sites have sprung up and the show has been shortlisted for an award.  Rather than bring happiness, the fame drives wedges between Tash and Jack, and resurfaces issues from the past.

The novel breaks some ground by making Tash asexual and addressing the problems that this causes her.  This would have been more interesting if it had featured more prominently throughout the novel, but it really only rises up in the last thrid of the book.  In a similar way, other subplots (like Jack's father's cancer and Tash's relationship with her sister) get rather sketchy treatment and feel like afterthoughts.  Many of the subplots are of course riffs on Tolstoy, but readers without the reference point are largely left in the dark and the result is a novel that doesn't stand up well on its own.

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