Vaclav & Lena

Vaclav & Lena

A Novel

Book - 2011
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Vaclav and Lena seem destined for each other. They meet as children in an ESL class in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. Vaclav is precocious and verbal. Lena, struggling with English, takes comfort in the safety of his adoration, his noisy, loving home, and the care of Rasia, his big-hearted mother. Vaclav imagines their story unfolding like a fairy tale, or the perfect illusion from his treasured Magician's Almanac, but among the many truths to be discovered in Haley Tanner's wondrous debut is that happily ever after is never a foregone conclusion.

One day, Lena does not show up for school. She has disappeared from Vaclav and his family's lives as if by a cruel magic trick. For the next seven years, Vaclav says goodnight to Lena without fail, wondering if she is doing the same somewhere. On the eve of Lena's seventeenth birthday he finds out.

Haley Tanner has the originality and verve of a born storyteller, and the boldness to imagine a world in which love can overcome the most difficult circumstances. In Vaclav & Lena she has created two unforgettable young protagonists who evoke the joy, the confusion, and the passion of having a profound, everlasting connection with someone else.

Praise for Vaclav & Lena
"Wonderful and wrenching . . . Vibrant characters, believable romance and dark undertones make for a moving tale."-- The New York Times
"From the moment they meet, Vaclav and Lena make magic together. . . . Through all the twists and turns of the book, the most enduring theme of the novel is love."--NPR
"Haley Tanner's assured narrative voice finds new ways to describe emotion and character, stunning the reader again and again with small shocks of awareness. This book is sad, funny, true, and shot through with grace."--Judy Blundell, National Book Award-winning author of What I Saw and How I Lied
"Highly recommended . . . Tanner's captivating debut novel is a love story of unusual innocence and intensity [and] a suspenseful, literary work that is hard to put down." --Library Journal
"A debut to savor . . . Tanner's charming story unfolds as gracefully as a flower." --People
"The magic Tanner makes is as dazzling as it is profound."-- Booklist

Publisher: New York : Dial Press, 2011.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9781400069316
Characteristics: 287 pages ; 22 cm
Alternative Title: Vaclav and Lena


From the critics

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ChristchurchLib Sep 22, 2014

"This debut novel takes place in Brooklyn's Brighton Beach as two children of Russian émigrés bond over their desire to create Houdini-like magic acts. As kids, Vaclav and Lena are inseparable, but as adolescence looms, Lena's horrific home situation leads to seven years in the foster system. When the two are finally reunited, they tread carefully, unsure if the other still feels as strongly as they do. Powerful and haunting, Vaclav & Lena is an emotional love story set in a well-depicted world of Brooklyn's Russian immigrants." Fiction A to Z September 2014 newsletter

Eufemia Jun 09, 2014

Two children form an emotional bond that lasts into adulthood despite separation. Russian community in Brooklyn as seen by an american writer.A debiut full of emotion, honest and echoing great classic russian novels (central strong female character) as well as romantic and tragic Dr. Zhivago in the story of Lena, who's parents perished at the peak of social and political upheaval in former Soviet Union.

Jan 27, 2013

Good Read - gets a little bogged down towards end of the 1st 3rd but keep reading - will pick up during the 2/3 through to the end.

vcortes5 Dec 22, 2012

excellent boook. love it.

KarinaGirl15 Aug 11, 2012

Looking at the story itself, I thought it was great. The plot was not something I have seen in previous books. The characters' personalities and settings of the book made it come to life. Especially for me, since I don't live far from Brighton and also speak Russian. I could see how the author wanted this story to be simple, yet original, however, I thought the time lapse of the book changed too quickly and in some parts, too slow. Like, in the beginning, when Vaclav was ten and Lena was nine. After about eighty or so pages, they both suddenly turned fifteen. Then after a rough estimate of fifteen pages, the characters turned seventeen. I also thought the ending of the book was very usual. Not something that was unexpected-- wrong. It WAS something that was unexpected, because I thought there would be MORE to it. Something that would put a smile on the readers face, or something that would give the reader a sigh of relief. The ending of the book, (spoiler alert if you didn't read it), was that Lena, on her seventeenth birthday, called Vaclav. My one thought while reading that part was, "Why didn't you call him earlier Lena?!" I understand that the author wanted the story's ending to be something that could happen to everyone, and that it wasn't like a fantasy love story, but why couldn't the author put some "umph" into it, and let's say, "make the characters bump into each other without realizing who either one of them was, and then coming to the same spot over and over again, just to see if that was who they thought it was." So the ending to me, wasn't at all great. The story had me almost on the edge of my seat, until I got to the ending. The ending was completely plain. Just like a bagel with no cream cheese, or no butter. But the plot, I thought, was amazing! It's just that it should've had a little more editing.

May 01, 2012

I really loved the voices in this book. It's a little difficult sometimes at the beginning, since many of the characters are Russian immigrants and 'speak' with an accent, but the story itself is engrossing and the characters fully-developed. Do yourself a favor and try this one by a first-time author.

melwyk May 01, 2012

Vaclav and Lena are children, living in Brooklyn, at the beginning of the book -- they hang out at Vaclav's house practicing magic tricks because Vaclav is going to be a famous magician when he grows up. They are both from Russian immigrant families: Lena with a confused sense of where she came from and a neglectful aunt who "cares" for her in a laissez-faire kind of way, and Vaclav with a strong mother who mothers them both. The middle of the book goes more deeply into darkness as Lena disappears, and Vaclav only finds out why years later when they reconnect.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read. The setting, the characters, even Vaclav's fascination with stage magic, all made it entertaining. The author's voice was lively, with an original perspective. I was absorbed in this story for a full day and found it well worth the time invested.

gracindaisy Mar 20, 2012

Set in Brooklyn’s Russian immigrant community, a boy & a girl are childhood friends, then are separated for 7 years. I fell in love with the characters from the start!

Jan 06, 2012

this is a lovely, sweet, little gem of a novel.

adagarcon Nov 10, 2011

This was one of my favorite reads during the summer. Tanner's first novel provides a descriptive account of the life of young Russian emigres in Coney Island. A magican and his assistant form the basis of this entertaining read and come to life all the more with each successive turn of the page.

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