Vaclav and Lena
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Vaclav and Lena

3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  3,029 ratings  ·  652 reviews
Set in New York's Russian émigré community, Vaclav & Lena is a timeless love story from a stunningly gifted young novelist.

Vaclav and Lena, both the children of Russian émigrés, are at the same time from radically different worlds. While Vaclav's burgeoning love of performing magic is indulged by hard-working parents pursuing the American dream, troubled orphan Lena is...more
Hardcover, 292 pages
Published May 17th 2011 by The Dial Press
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Elena Kruglyak
Wow! Where do I begin? I was born in the former Soviet Union and grew up in Brooklyn, albeit not on Brighton Beach, but then neither did Vaclav and Lena. That area is called Sheepshead Bay, but it almost seems that the author couldn't resist throwing in yet another cliche of the Russian immigrant experience. The book is full of them - a vodka swilling father, an obese wart covered mother, chain-smoking strippers, greasy borscht, tea and Russian television. I was half expecting a balalaika playin...more
Ecco un libro che non regalerò mai al mio fidanzato.

Se dovesse raccontarvelo lui, ve lo spiegherebbe così:

“E insomma, sta a sentì. La storia si svolge in America. Ci son ‘sti due regazzini, figli di immigrati russi che crescono assieme. All’inizio ‘na cosa che più puerile di così nun se po’ sentì, dopo un pochetto però, ce prendi gusto a sapè che faranno, se si bucheranno, se s’ammazzeranno, se la vita je sorriderà.

Poi un bel giorno a ragazzetta mingherlina sparisce. Epperò nella quarta di cope...more
Jessie  (Ageless Pages Reviews)
Read This Review & More Like It On Ageless Pages Reviews!

This was a magical experience for me - one that was completely charming but not without depth or darker themes. It's a light and breezy read with an innocent tone for the most part - a (sadly) short-ish book that can easily be completed in a day but be warned; this novel about young love made my bitter old heart grow three sizes when I finished it. Vaclav & Lena is, at the heart of everything, a novel really all about love. Love be...more
I think this is the kind of book that people (critics) who know nothing about Russia, Russian culture or Russian immigrant communities in the United States will absolutely love, and that people who know anything about those subjects will approach with a more critical eye. Because I really WANTED to like this book, but I kept trying to figure out why Ms. Tanner wrote about something she was clearly so unfamiliar with (soooooo many cliches about Russian immigrants, sooooo many things that just did...more

E poi dicono che i titoli non sono importanti!
Parliamo del titolo originale "Vaclav e Lena" e mettiamolo a confronto con "Cose da salvare in caso di incendio" e cosa viene fuori? semplice, io un libro chiamato "Vaclav e Lena" non lo avrei mai letto. La versione inglese di questo libro (titolo e copertina) danno un messaggio completamente diverso rispetto a quella italiana. Appena preso in mano in libro inglese si pensa che sia un libro che si basa su una storia d'amore, ricorda anche un pò i...more
I originally heard about this book on NPR, when it was recommended by the librarian Nancy Pearl. The theme was "books with a really interesting character". I really wanted to like the book, especially after I realized I had read a very poignant article and watched a video on The New York Times site about the author and her dying husband.
The story follows 2 Russian immigrant children in New York City who meet when they are five and become fast friends. The girl, Lena, mysteriously ( to Vaclav an...more
To be honest I was expecting to give this a two most of the way through, but in the end I decided it was a decent story despite some distracting flaws. I was appreciative of the fact that the central "mystery" was solved in the end as opposed to being left unsolved, and that the discovery of the explanation was natural and believable.

Vaclav and Lena are two children of Russian immigrants, aged nine or ten when the story opens. Vaclav comes from an intact if not entirely happy home with a big-hea...more
This is a pretty beautiful book. It's a realistic fairy tale. The language is gorgeous in a direct and poetic way. The sentiment is accessible and welcoming. The story is bittersweet, with magic and secrets and truths all over the place. I'm so glad I read this.

Each night that Ekaterina does not come for Lena, each time that Ekaterina shows that she is irresponsible, is untrustworthy, is unloving, Rasia is reassured that she has a right to love Lena as much as she does, which is very much. p. 89...more
Vaclav & Lena is a book to (forgive the word) cherish. It's all the secrets we keep growing up; it's what it's like to be a kid alone; what it's like, how exciting, to be a kid finally with a best friend; what it's like, later, to fall in love. It's all those things *exactly*. The hope, the earnestness, the anxiety, the wonder, *exactly*.

The characters are so real and complex they're practically in the room with you, but Vaclav's earnestness and enthusiasm and Lena's imagination and inner t...more
Vaclav and Lena is the closest I could get to magic. It's flawed and it lags in places and sometimes, the prose is condensed into poetry too much for it to make sense pronto. But it's painful and pretty and it makes sense to be that way.

The novel starts with a scene between the titular characters, Vaclav and Lena, two Russian children stuck in a land not their own with a language they barely have a grasp of. It would be cliched to use the word "pure" to describe their relationship, but it was....more
Ever on a quest to find books that speak to my life and my situation, I originally started reading this book with no real expectations, but intrigued by the subject matter of two Russian immigrants who meet, aged 10, in their ESL classes.

So far, so saccharine. However, whilst arguably a coming-of-age novel, this book had a dark underbelly I didn't expect - and was an altogether stronger work as a result of that.

I am normally loath to start talking about language in a review, but Tanner's langua...more
I'm a Russian immigrant, so when I heard about this book, I ran out and bought it. What a major and ignorant disappointment this book proved to be. This in no way speaks to the Russian immigrant experience. I particularly hated the parts that talked about the difficulties with learning English. While it is indeed hard for older people, children learn languages fast. I remember learning English in about two months at the age of six. It wasn't that hard.

I know many writers want to move beyond the...more
Gail Cooke
Affecting, poignant, unforgettable all describe Haley Tanner's wonderful debut novel VACLAV & LENA. One would be hard-pressed to think of anyone who would not be touched by her story, especially when read by two such talented actors as Kirby Heyborne and Rebecca Lowman.

A gifted and versatile performer Heyborne has received acclaim for not only his acting but his music (four solo albums) and his comedy. Lowman brings a wealth of stage, film and television experience to her narration. An inim...more

The 90′s dawn on Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach with hope and sunlight. At least, they do for Vaclav. For the rest of the Russian immigrant community, life isn’t all magic and ponies. His best friend, Lena, for example, lives with her aunt, a woman of questionable employment and morals, in a tiny, rundown apartment that seems to suck the very life out of a girl who should be thriving in the new world. Together, the two save each other from many of life’s perils...more
Ooh, but this is such a beautiful, beautiful book.

Vaclav & Lena is a debut novel of Haley Tanner and it tells the story of, of course, Vaclav and Lena. Vaclav and Lena are both Russian immigrants in America. They meet in an ESL class in school and they immediately became best friends. Vaclav is enthralled with magic and he dreams to become a famous magician, so every day, after school, he practices magic tricks,with Lena as his assistant. Of course, every magician has an assistant and Lena c...more
I loved the beginning of this novel that described two outcast children of immigrants befriending each other and planning for a magic show. The author really got inside each character’s head and described in detail what they were thinking and feeling. Sometimes the descriptions and the history was a little much, and eventually I found myself skimming certain paragraphs. The middle was interesting as the reader discovered what the two characters went through while they were apart. But again there...more
Sep 02, 2011 Cheryl added it
I really liked this novel, although I wasn't sure I would in the end.

In fact, about halfway through, I stopped reading it for awhile because I was so afraid one of the lead characters would, or even "must", end up dying before it ended.

When I picked it up again, I read right through to the end, just as I had the first half.

It really is a compelling story of two "outsider" children who discover each other and cling to each other. One of them, Vaclav, has two parents who love him, if awkward in...more
"Vaclav & Lena" by Haley Tanner is a beautiful and poignant novel about love that takes root between two immigrant children in the immigrant community of Brighton Beach, Brooklyn - a love that continues to grow over time. Being immigrants, Vaclav and Lena are the odd outcasts trying to find their voices and their place in the world. While Vaclav aspires to be a world famous magician, Lena is his assistant and his muse. While Vaclav resides in a household where he is loved and pampered by his...more
J.M. Cornwell
A tale of young love that demonstrates more abuse and control than love.

Vaclav and Lena are friends, both in the same grade and both spend a lot of time together. Lena is shy because of her lack of English around other children and quiet—most of the time. Vaclav lives for magic and his idol is David Copperfield. Lena’s idol is the girl in the fringed gold bikini who is Fredini’s assistant.

Through their younger years, Vaclav and Lena are inseparable, at least until Marina and Christina begin ha...more
Reader's Choice book at the library. I read a random paragraph from the middle and knew I would enjoy this book. I was not disappointed. Especially for a freshman novel, I was very impressed by Tanner. Her characters (even peripheral ones) were vibrant and believable. She didn't overplay the "dark secret", and stayed true to what was most beautiful about this story: the relationship between Vaclav and Lena. Call me old-fashioned, but I like the idea of soulmates, and I appreciated that Vaclav an...more
Jan 03, 2012 Chrissie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Chrissie by: Daisy
I wasn't sure I was going to read this book. I thought it was a young adult book. In some ways it is; it deals with young adults and their search for what will determine their future choices in life. Having completed the book I feel the primary audience is not just young adults. Maybe this is one of those special books that can be read by everyone. It surprised me. The topics covered expanded as the novel continued. And I loved the ending, when I read it. It tied in perfectly with other themes p...more
Has there ever been a less compelling read??
I would not have read this but alas, book club pick, and so I was forced to dive into the extremely unmagical (despite efforts to the contrary) world of two unappealing Russian children, the titular Vaclav and Lena, the former a would be Houdini and the latter a rather introverted victim of abuse. I tend to despise sweeping tales of epic love, such as the type where they meet at age like six or whatever and are separated for lots of formative and impor...more
The back of this book sounded SO good and I still think it's a really good concept. The relationship between Vaclav and Lena was really sweet as children but his blind devotion got a little creepy as they got older. Also, I think a lot of confusion could have been saved if the reader would have been kept in the loop a little more. It basically separates the two all of the sudden and then sort of throws them back together years later without letting us know why they were separated in the first pl...more
4.5 stars. I absolutely loved this book.

I loved the writing, I loved the characters, I loved the childlike innocence, the way the author is so tuned in to what it felt like to be a child, to have a best friend, to be excited about things that maybe nobody else understands, to fall in love. I just thought it was beautiful, all of it.
OMG ! I am LOVING this book. Listening to it in the car. Perfect book to go audio on with the accents and such. Loving it so far!
Lois Gross
This is an appropriate book for book club selections. Young Vaclav and Lena become entrined in each other's lives as emigre children in Brooklyn. Both are enamored of of Vaclav's idea to become a magician on par with Harry Houdini. Lena will grow up to be his "lovely assistant" in a gold spangled bikini. But life takes a different turn when Lena's troubled life with her neglectful aunt becomes the backdrop for abuse. Vaclav's mother intervene's and Lena is placed under the control of Social Serv...more
Dan Norton
Two books in a row that have been wonderful and that I will long remember. I'm on a roll.

This was a book that I knew would be to my liking based on the very brief write-up it got in the Times. Since becoming a father, I have found that I love books with well developed children characters. It seems reasonable to think that reading from a kids perspective and being able to jump inside their head would make you a better parent. Probably wishful thinking, but reasonable.

Vaclav and Lena present two g...more
Regina Lindsey
Vaclav and Lena, both Russian immigrants, become friends early in life. Entering schoold the friendship deepens until, teenage dynamics enter the scene and Lena disappears from Vaclav's life.

I REALLY wanted to give this a five star because I REALLY did love the book. However, I really felt Lena's story was not fully developed to the point I could give a five. But, now that the critique is over, let me move on to the gems of the book.

First, the voices are incredibly authentic. From the immigra...more
Cyndy Aleo
When I got the chance to obtain a review copy of Haley Tanner's Vaclav and Lena through NetGalley, I jumped at the chance. I have a thing about magicians, and the blurb for the book promised something about magicians, or so I thought.

::: The Plot :::

Vaclav and Lena meet as nine-year-old children, both members of the Russian immigrant community in New York City. Lena relies on Vaclav more than she'd like to, but finally, they are separated one day and don't meet up again until they are 17.

When t...more
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Ladies' Home Jour...: Let's Talk About: Vaclav & Lena - March 2012 1 12 Mar 14, 2012 02:07PM  
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Haley Tanner was born in New York City (in the Bronx!) and raised on a lovely street in a house her father (most famous as the superhero Astroman, the man who can do anything) built with his own two hands. Haley's mother was named one of Forbes 100 Mothers to Emulate in recognition for her love, support, and understanding during the years that Haley was a Police Dispatcher/Parliamentary Assistant/...more
More about Haley Tanner...
Vaclav & lena

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“Lena's real mom, Emily, knew that this was not the truth, but she also knew that Vaclav was not lying.
Vaclav knew that he was telling the truth.
Lena knew that it was a lie, but she loved it and believed it, like a fairy tale, like a song, like a bedtime story, like a magic trick.
She loved Vaclav until it became the truth and so it was.”
“. . . and Vaclav's special new shoes with the lights on the heels and the Velcro everywhere, because in America no one, not even small children, has time to tie his own shoes, and everything must have flashing lights.” 5 likes
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