Friday, June 24, 2011

Review: Vaclav & Lena by Haley Tanner

Being a Russian immigrant is not easy on ten-year-old Vaclav, but he has David Copperfield to help him through. Lena is shy and awkward with her broken English and her dark past. This does not stop Vaclav and his lovely assistant, Lena, from practicing magic every day after school.

The day before their big show at Coney Island, Lena disappears. Vaclav’s mother knows what happened to her, but she’s keeping her secrets to protect Vaclav, as she's always done.

Years later, when Lena returns, Vaclav is faced with reality and uncertainty. He thought he knew what love was, and he thought he knew Lena.

Lena wants to fill in the gaps of her childhood memories, but doing so brings a pain she doesn't think she'll survive. 

Vaclav is forced to see reality and decide if life is what he can make of it. Lena must face the monsters of her past. And Vaclav's mother discovers she cannot always protect her child.


I'll admit, I was skeptical. A book about a kid who immigrated from Russia and loves magic? Can you really write an entire book about that? But the story is not as it seems.

What a fascinating book. It took me a few pages to get used to the writing. Since all the main characters think and speak in halting English, everything is written as such. At first I was confused how someone with such lacking English skills could get published. Once I realized what was going on, I understood how brilliant it was.

To tackle such heart-wrenching topics with such candor and love was probably very difficult. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I really felt like I had immigrated along with Vaclav and his family.

There is some sexual content (nothing graphic) and a few instances of heavy language.

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: The Dial Press (May 17, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • Source: Goodreads FirstReads giveaway
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