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Best book of the year: Vaclav & Lena by Haley Tanner

Title: Vaclav & Lena [buy the book]
Author: Haley Tanner [website] [tumblr] [Twitter]
Pages: 304 pages
Genre: Fiction
Date Published: May 17, 2011

Summary:

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.

My thoughts:

Vaclav & Lena by Haley Tanner is the runaway favorite book of 2011 for me.

It.

Is.

Fabulous.

It’s sweet without being saccharine, serious, playful, and fun. Vaclav and Leah are both Russian immigrants, and Vaclav is going to grow up to be a famous magician and Leah will be his beautiful assistant. Tanner seems to have a knack for children’s voices, but she’s able to transition when the kids are teenagers. Vaclav’s mom is imperfect but only has good intentions, and it’s hard not to understand why she does what she does.

I loved this book, and I wish that everyone would read it.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

24 comments »

24 Responses to “Best book of the year: Vaclav & Lena by Haley Tanner”

  1. Kailana ()

    Okay, I started this and it wasn’t working for me, but everyone I have seen that has read it.. Loved it… I must try again!

    [Reply]

  2. bermudaonion (Kathy) ()

    I just won this so I’m happy to see it’s so good. It sounds like I should drop everything and read it.

    [Reply]

  3. jenn aka the picky girl ()

    That is a fantastic endorsement, and though I’ve wanted this book for a while, I really am coveting it now. Thanks!

    [Reply]

  4. Jenny

    Ahh I need to read this!! I have it on my shelf. Michelle from my books.my life pretty much said the same as you, that it’s one of the best of the year! I was really excited when i got it… don’t know why I haven’t read it yet!

    [Reply]

  5. David Fickbohm

    I have a signed first edition. I will hang on it.

    [Reply]

  6. Frankie

    I plan to put this on my e-reader this weekend. I have had a string of poor reads lately, so happy for ur review.

    [Reply]

  7. Melissa ()

    Yay! I’m going to order a copy…if you recommend it, I know it’s going to be good!

    [Reply]

  8. zibilee ()

    I am planning on reading this soon, and am so glad to see that you loved it! I have read a few reviews and think that it sounds very promising and like something that I would really enjoy. I love it when the author can write convincing character voices. Great and enthusiastic review, Trish, thanks!

    [Reply]

  9. Mumsy

    Sold!

    [Reply]

  10. Sandy ()

    Whoa! Well, you are not the first review I’ve read that gushes love for this book, it seems to be a recurring theme. I shall be book shopping this weekend. We shall see if it throws itself in my path.

    [Reply]

  11. Amy ()

    I’ve read some other good reviews of this book but yours is definitely the best. I, of course, love the Brooklyn setting and I like your comment that it’s sweet but not saccharine and fun sounds fantastic.

    I’ll be adding it to my tbr list!

    [Reply]

  12. Marie ()

    Great review! I have this book on my to-be-read shelf. After reading this, I’m going to have to read it sooner rather than later. Thanks!

    [Reply]

  13. Beth F ()

    Ummm okay — I’ll read it.

    [Reply]

  14. Melissa Sarno ()

    Wow! I love reactions to a book like this. I’m definitely going to read it.

    [Reply]

  15. nomadreader (Carrie) ()

    Oh, I have this one out from the library now! I’ll have to move it to the top of my pile. High praise, indeed.

    [Reply]

  16. Lisa

    I hadn’t heard of this one before but it definitely sounds marvelous.

    [Reply]

  17. Joanna

    What a recommendation! How can I not buy this immediately? 🙂

    [Reply]

  18. Kathleen

    With such high praise from you I know I need to read this one!

    [Reply]

  19. Laurie C ()

    It’s kind of got an awful cover, so your fervent wish for everyone to read it is the only thing that would get me to pick it up. 😉
    I felt this same urge to get everyone to read it about Hedwig & Berti by Frieda Arkin a few years ago, it was the most underappreciated novel of 2005!

    [Reply]

    Erin Reply:

    I got a copy of this a few months ago from LIbrayThing.com as an early reviewer and I just loved it! It is truly a gem. If they would let give higher than the 5 star rating I would give it 20:) A wonderful, wonderful book.

    [Reply]

  20. Michelle ()

    Thanks again for introducing me to this fabulous book.

    [Reply]

  21. stacybuckeye ()

    So, I guess I should read it?

    [Reply]

  22. Bittersweet Love: Vaclav & Lena by Haley Tanner « Bay State Reader's Advisory: Reading Suggestions from a Massachusetts Librarian

    […] for the mysterious and the straightforward at the same time. A best-book-of-the-year review from Hey Lady! got me to read this book despite its bland title and even blander cover, and I’m glad I did. […]

  23. Laurie C ()

    I liked it, but I’m not sure about putting it on my (nonexistent) list of best books of 2011. It will be interesting to see how the author grows as a writer, since this was her first book.

    [Reply]

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