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Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian – Marina Lewycka

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian - Marina Lewycka

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian – Marina Lewycka

This novel has been sitting in my tbr pile for a very long time and I finally decided to read it – I was looking for something fun.

There were a few laugh out loud moments and the tractor history was quite informative (I learnt about the dust bowl crisis in America – caused by too much ploughing and drought).

Here is the blurb …

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.

There are themes that run through my reading – usually coincidentally – at the moment I seem to be reading about children of holocaust survivors – Lola Bensky – and now this one. Although the holocaust only had a minor role in this novel – it explains Vera’s disdain for her father (but I won’t spoil the story for you). Valentina wants to move to England and become a citizen and she sees the sisters’ dad as the means to achieve this desire. He is a bit confused, a bit secretive and captured by her breasts! Valentina demands a western lifestyle – new car, new cooker, etc. The sisters want her deported, the dad swings between wanting her gone and wanting her to stay and then there are the ex-husband, the publican and the neighbour all who appear to be in love with her.

I can imagine this novel as a quirky film. Most of the comedy arises from Valentina’s broken English – “Ýou no good man. You plenty-money meanie. Promise money. Money sit in bank. Promise car. Crap car.” Alongside these hilarious moments are dark events – the work camps and the interrogation of the sisters’ grandmother, which is brought about by the dad inventing a dodgy brother in law.

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