Saturday, 17 April 2010

Review:- Marina LEWYCKA – “A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian”

Year Published: - 2005
Where the book was from:- My own copy
ISBN: - 978-0-141-02052-5
Pages: - 325pp
Genre: - General fiction, Humour, Ukraine
Location:- UK
How I came across it: - much reviewed
Rating: - ***** ****
One sentence summary:- A hugely enjoyable account of the reaction of two warring systems when they are brought together by a common enemy – their father’s new girlfriend.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:-
“For years, Nadezhda and Vera, two Ukrainian sisters, raised in England by their refugee parents, have had as little as possible to do with each other - and they have their reasons. But now they find they'd better learn how to get along, because since their mother's death their aging father has been sliding into his second childhood, and an alarming new woman has just entered his life. Valentina, a bosomy young synthetic blonde from the Ukraine, seems to think their father is much richer than he is, and she is keen that he leave this world with as little money to his name as possible. If Nadazhda and Vera don't stop her, no one will. But separating their addled and annoyingly lecherous dad from his new love will prove to be no easy feat - Valentina is a ruthless pro and the two sisters swiftly realize that they are mere amateurs when it comes to ruthlessness. As Hurricane Valentina turns the family house upside down, old secrets come falling out, including the most deeply buried one of them all, from the War, the one that explains much about why Nadazhda and Vera are so different. In the meantime, oblivious to it all, their father carries on with the great work of his dotage, a grand history of the tractor.”

General comments:-
Orange Prize for Fiction (nominee)
Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Writing
The Booker Prize (nominee)
Waterstone's Newcomer of the Year

The author’s own background suggests there is an element of the autobiography in this “riotous oil-painting of senility, lust and greed..’ (Economist)

Between seven and ten million people died across Ukraine during the man-made famine of 1932-3.

“...if all women were to wear paint on their faces, just think, there could be no more natural selection. The inevitable result would be the uglification of the species.”

He shifts his voice into an easy narrative gear. He is in control now, driving his tractor across the crumbling furrows of the past.

I remember when Christmas dinner was a big fat bird with salt-crisped skin and oily h
juices oozing out of it, fragrant with garlic and marjoram and kasha stuffed in its plump tummy and roasted shallots and chestnuts round the side, and home-made wine that made us all tipsy, and a white cloth and flowers on the table, even in winter, and silly presents, and laughter and kisses. This woman who has taken the place of my mother has stolen Christmas and replaced it with boil-in-the-bag food and plastic flowers.

“Nadia, why do you always go scrabbling around in the past?” Her voice is tense, brittle. “The past is filthy. It’s like a sewer. You shouldn’t play there. Leave it alone. Forget it.”


AUTHOR Notes:- Marina LEWYCKA was born of Ukrainian parents in a refugee camp in Kiel, Germany, at the end of World War II and grew up in England. She teaches at Sheffield Hallam University and is married with a grown-up daughter.

1 comment:

  1. I read this a few summers ago - and as I remember pretty much everyone in my office was reading it, and so were their spouses and so were their siblings - it was the take on your holidays summer misread - and I was not disappointed - I remember being really struck by the humour of it.

    Thanks for sharing this excellent review



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