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Posts Tagged ‘Vaclav & Lena’

Jane’s Bookshelf: Favorite Love Stories

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

JVMWhat does a publisher at the world’s biggest publishing house read for pleasure? (And how does she find the time?) Jane von Mehren is the Senior Vice President and Publisher of Trade Paperbacks at the Random House Publishing Group. Every now and then, she’ll be featuring her favorite reads in her Reader’s Circle column, Jane’s Bookshelf—books that she thinks you’ll love, whether you read them solo or with your club! And if you’re on Twitter, you can follower her tweets at @janeatrandom.

In an editor and a publisher’s life, there are certain authors and publications that stand out. For me there was my first acquisition (House of Heroes by Mary La Chapelle), first bestseller (Backlash by Susan Faludi), the first bestseller I didn’t originally acquire (Motherless Daughters by Hope Edelman). It’s sort of embarrassing to realize how well I remember these events from almost two decades ago!

Snow Flower smallHere at Random House, Lisa See is an author who looms large for me in large part because Snow Flower and the Secret Fan was one of the first big paperbacks I published when I came here nearly seven years ago. We moved the paperback up from the traditional 12 months after hardcover publication to 9 months, completely redesigned the jacket, sent Lisa on a huge tour, and did major marketing outreach targeting book clubs and avid fiction readers. The success we shared with that campaign became a calling card for Random House Readers Circle and our trade paperback program. So February 7 was a special day for me: Dreams of Joy went on sale in paperback. I won’t try to describe it since the Los Angeles Times does it better than I ever could: “The scope of the novel is astonishing. . . .See aims her pen at the most vivid aspects of daily life but never loses the sweep of history. In the end, it’s a story with characters who enter a reader’s life, take up residence, and illuminate the myriad decisions and stories that make up human history.” And you may be able to catch Lisa while she is out on tour.

major_pettigrewBeing that it’s near Valentine’s Day, I can’t help but think of some other firsts: first kiss, first love … though I’m not sharing them! Instead here are some of my favorite love stories: Helen Simonson’s Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand combines British wit and charm, a small British village, and two wonderful characters – the Major and Mrs. Ali – who fall in love despite everyone’s disapproval; it’s an endearing, thoroughly grown up romance.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and SweetSome love stories take place in the midst of momentous events, so that the relationships at their heart take on almost epic proportions: I think of Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities and Sydney Carton’s sacrifice that allows Charles Darney and his lovely Lucie to remain together despite the ravages of the French Revolution. Or how World War II interrupts the young love between Henry and Keiko in Jamie Ford’s Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.

EndlessLoveVaclav&LenaPerhaps it is stories of young love that resonate most with us as readers. I for one can’t forget the angst-ridden romantics that Scott Spencer created with his teenage protagonists in Endless Love. More recently, I adored the young characters at the heart of Haley Tanner’s Vaclav and Lena; theirs is a story not only of love, but also of magic. Need I say more?

As you think of your first Valentine or your favorite love stories, I hope you will share them with me and our Random House Readers Circle community.

Vaclav & Lena: A Reader’s Guide to Haley Tanner’s novel

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Vaclav&LenaVaclav 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 one day, Lena does not show up for school. She has disappeared from Vaclav and his family’s lives as if by a cruel sleight of hand. 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. In Vaclav & Lena, Haley Tanner has created two unforgettable young protagonists who evoke the joy, the confusion, and the passion of having a profound, everlasting connection.

1. Discuss the relationships between storytelling, lies, and magic in Vaclav & Lena. How do these concepts interact in the novel’s climax?

2. Lena’s disappearance is a sore point between Vaclav and Rasia. Do you think Rasia made the right choice by remaining silent about it?

3. Early in the book, Vaclav has a tremendous amount of confidence in himself and in his future as a magician. Do you think this is merely naïveté, or is it a necessary attribute for someone to make their dreams come true?

4. Discuss the challenges of immigration in the book. How does language play a role in assimilation for Vaclav and Lena? How does Rasia try to connect with her Americanized son?

5. Rasia and her husband, Oleg, seem to have had very different experiences in immigrating to America. What factors have contributed to this difference in their experience?

6. How would you describe the dynamics of Vaclav and Lena’s relationship at the start of the novel? How do those dynamics shift when Lena becomes friends with the popular crowd and Vaclav volunteers to do her homework for her? How do they shift again when Vaclav and Lena reconnect as teenagers?

7. Discuss the novel’s settings. How does the Russian émigré community of Brighton Beach have an effect on Vaclav and Lena? How does the fantastical world of Coney Island?

8. How would you describe the nature of Rasia’s relationship with Lena?

9. In reporting Lena’s situation to the authorities, is Rasia acting solely in Lena’s best interest, or might she be acting to protect her son?

10. Why do you think Vaclav, at seventeen, resists sex with his girlfriend?

11. Discuss the chapter headings. How do they interact with the rest of the text?

12. How does Lena’s trauma manifest itself when she is a child? A teenager? Do you think her wounds can be healed?

13. Ekaterina tells Vaclav that she did the best she could for Lena. Do you think this is true?

Enter to win a copy of VACLAV & LENA by Haley Tanner

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

tanner_halleyVaclav & Lena LHJ dummyThis giveaway is now closed. Thanks to all who entered!

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 one day, Lena does not show up for school. She has disappeared from Vaclav and his family’s lives as if by a cruel sleight of hand. 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. In Vaclav & Lena, Haley Tanner has created two unforgettable young protagonists who evoke the joy, the confusion, and the passion of having a profound, everlasting connection.

Follow Haley on Twitter

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