Friday, 2 April 2010

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka

This book has a great title doesn't it? I lost count of the number of times I've picked this up in waterstones and thought about buying it. So I was pleased when I managed to find a copy in my local 2nd hand book store for £2.50.

This is about two sisters Nadia and Vera who live in England and have Ukrainian parents. Their father gets married to a 34 year old big boobed and brash Ukrainian called Valentina who is after a British passport and all the trappings a western life can offer. The sisters haven't spoken since the death of their mother two years previous to these events and this crisis unites them together against a common enemy.

This sounds simple but also weaving throughout this book are the hard times which Nadia's parents and sister had to endure during the war and the rise of the iron curtain before they eventually managed to flee the Ukraine to England. As Nadia was born in England she has had a completely different childhood to that of her sister (there's a good ten years between them) so there are things which Nadia is unaware of and this creates tension between her and her older sister.

I liked these serious issues within the book and I understood why the sisters were often at loggerheads, this along with the comedy of their fathers disastrous marriage to a much younger women makes this an enjoyable and easy read. All of the characters have good and bad points and even the fathers new wife Valentina demands some sympathy. I felt as though the author tried to put far too much in the 300 pages as there are stories in this which I think could have done with more background. I wouldn't call this book 'laugh out loud' funny but it is funny in parts and very endearing.

As for the Tractors? The father over the course of the book is writing his life's work 'A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian' and yes you do learn a little about Tractors.

Verdict 3/5

Posted by Jess


  1. This seems like it could be hard to find, but it sounds good. I will keep an eye out!

  2. Hello Jess
    I stumbled across this site via a discussion of review books on Savidge Books. I found it really interesting to see the different perspectives of various book bloggers. I'm looking at things from a different viewpoint - my blog is more about writing than reading, thought that comes into it as well.
    I read ‘The Tractors’ book a year or so ago, though I was a bit resistant to it because of the hype that surrounded it. I enjoyed it too, with a few reservation (if I was rating it, I think I’d give it the same grade). I was quite prepared to dislike Marina (I’m ashamed to admit to my jealousy) but when I heard her on radio 4, I realised she was a very down to earth person with a similar approach to writing as mine, and like me, had endured the pitying looks when admitting that none of my novels had yet found a publisher – in her case, she’d even stopped telling people she was writing a novel, as she could see by their expression that they felt ‘ If you were actually any good, you’d have been published by now.’
    By that time, I had been published myself, and several people have compared my novel, The Dangerous Sports Euthanasia Society, favourably with hers.
    If you’re interested, take a look at my site (there’s also info there about my latest novel, and I’d be happy to send you a copy of that, on the off-chance that you might have time to read it!)

  3. Enjoyed your review, although its added to my wishlist (nearly didn't till I got to the tractor bit)