Saturday, April 07, 2007

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian - Marina Lewycka

The Basics: A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, Marina Lewycka, 2005, 294 pages, paper back, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2005.

How I Found it: Last time I was at Chapters I saw this book and nearly bought it... this time I did buy it. This is a case of judging a book by its cover.

What's it about?: A Ukrainian immigrant family in a small town in the UK deal with their father's impending remarriage to a women from the "motherland". Sisters Vera and Nadia have been feuding since their mother's death, but they have to band together to save their father. This is a story of a family rediscovering their love for each other, and it's often humorous. The eccentric patriarch, a former engineer, is writing a book, A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, that is the vehicle for connecting their old lives in the Ukraine with their new lives in England.

Did I like it?: I really like this book. It was cutely funny, but also sad at times. I read it quite fast since the book is written in an effortless way. My only quibble with the book would be that some of the characters (the ones we aren't supposed to like) were very one dimensional and it wasn't clear what their motivation was. But I suppose that is the beauty of the story.

Will you like it?: I think so. This is a cute little book and a great story about a family. Plus, it is about the immigrant experience and ties the old world to the new, which is always good. The characters are quite funny at times, and the plot unfolds well. Overall, a good fast read with lots of heart, if a bit pulpy at times.

But don't take my word for it: The usual industry reviews from Amazon, a couple of glowing reader reviews, one from the London Times, a not so glowing review from the Guardian, one from the San Fransisco Chronicle, and a fairly negative review from Alan in Belfast.

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