Friday, April 24, 2009

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka

Why on earth did this sit on my bookshelf for so long before I got around to reading it? It is an absolute delight and I kept reading and laughing when I should have been sleeping.
It is a tragic comedy about a Ukrainian family domiciled in the Uk for many years. The protagonist is the widowed elderly father of Nadezhda and Vera who falls in love with a Ukrainian many years his junior. The subject of his misguided love is Valentina who plans to exploit him and marry him as a means of staying in the UK along with her son Stanislav. The two sisters have not had a close relationship but they are drawn closer in their bid to prevent Valentina stepping in and taking over their mother Ludmilla's place in their former home.
The characters are all extremely well portrayed and I found it easy to visualise them all from brassy Valentina to the two womens lonely and lecherous Pappa. There are some very amusing descriptions in the book, particularly involving these two characters.

As well as hearing details of the battle against Valentina from the narrator Nadezhda we also learn something of the families history and their reasons behind leaving the Ukraine, which is both sorrowful and believable. Heedless of the upset he is causing around him throughout the story Pappa continues with his lifes work trying to complete a written history of the tractor. I did not find these sections of particular interest but by the end realised the relevance.

I now plan to read Two Caravans as soon as possible.

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