Friday, April 13, 2012

Vaclav & Lena | Haley Tanner

I hadn't heard of this title nor of the author of this novel but I picked it up and gave it a go. Am so pleased I did, as it is a gem of a book. It takes a bit to fall into the rhythm of the language, but as the story unfolds it's an easier read.
Set in Brooklyn, among Russian immigrants, this is the story of two children Vaclav and Lena. Both on the margins of their school communities, they meet as young children and have an instant bond and friendship.
Vaclav is passionate about becoming a magician and  having Lena as his lovely assistant.
Lena is a quiet and withdrawn child, we get glimpses of her home life. Firstly with an old woman who is not her grandmother but is her carer, and later with an Aunt, who mostly leaves her to fend for herself. Lena is home with Vaclav every day unless at school. His mother looks out for her and feels a little responsible for Lena.
When Lena is nine, Social Services take her away. No one hears from her until she is 17, when she calls Vaclav and the full story of her childhood comes out. All the narrate threads lead to the climax and end of the book. It's a beautiful, tortured story and I loved every minute. Well worth reading and I hope Tanner writes her second novel soon.

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