Monday, December 19, 2011

Best of 2011 Countdown: #6

If these books were in the Miss America Pageant, they'd have to wear swimsuits.


Vaclav & Lena
Haley Tanner
Random House

This is a book that also appears on Liz’s list and I wrote about it this summer (that blog piece is below) but I did want to add a couple of things that I left out of that original post. First, it’s hard to find a really good love story these days. [Other than the love Gianna feels for Liz....] And by really good love story, I mean well written, well developed, and original. Second, Tanner captures you on the very first pages and is writing well beyond her young age. Third…look at that cover, you won't even have to wrap it when you give it to your girlfriend, father, wife, brother, mother, lover, literate dog…it's gorgeous.   
Haley Tanner

I don’t want to over-sell this but, if you miss reading this novel… well, you will end up ruining your life.
Vaclav & Lena  is an amazing love story about two young Russian immigrants living in Brooklyn--Vaclav dreams of becoming a famous magician and Lena will be his lovely assistant--and then she is taken away, suddenly and without warning. The story is filled with an almost fairy tale quality, the writing is so pitch perfect (and by pitch perfect please just pick the book up and read the first few pages of the grade school Vaclav and Lena going through their magic routine…the Russian accents are wonderful). It really is a magical, amazing book.


The Upright Piano Player
David Abbott
Nan A. Talese/Doubleday

To quote one of my coworkers, the one who first turned me on to The Upright Piano Player, "this is a novel of quiet desperation."  It's one of those little books that don't take up space on a shelf but dominate your mind for many days after finishing.  This isn't a loud book.  It is a beautiful one.

David Abbott
The author, David Abbott, actually owns the painting that appears on the cover, and one can imagine him staring at it for long hours and then composing this story for the man in the painting.  This is the story of Henry Cage, a man who seemingly has a successful life--a nice home, nice career, money.  His life, though, is peppered with the "what might have beens," and as he slides into retirement he learns that his ex-wife is critically ill.  And then Henry is randomly attacked at a New Year's/Millennium street party.  The attacker haunts him as do his past decisions as this novel wraps tighter and tighter.

The Upright Piano Player gets my vote for best-but-least-heralded novel of the year.  It's incredible, gorgeous, special, poignant.

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