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A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian

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A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian was bestselling author Marina Lewycka's bestselling debut novel which has sold over one million copies worldwide. Lewycka tells the side-splittingly funny story of two feuding sisters, Vera and Nadezhda, who join forces against their father's new, gold-digging girlfriend. Two years after my mother died, my father fell in love with a A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian was bestselling author Marina Lewycka's bestselling debut novel which has sold over one million copies worldwide. Lewycka tells the side-splittingly funny story of two feuding sisters, Vera and Nadezhda, who join forces against their father's new, gold-digging girlfriend. Two years after my mother died, my father fell in love with a glamorous blonde Ukrainian divorcée. He was eighty-four and she was thirty-six. She exploded into our lives like a fluffy pink grenade, churning up the murky water, bringing to the surface a sludge of sloughed-off memories, giving the family ghosts a kick up the backside. Sisters Vera and Nadezhda must aside a lifetime of feuding to save their émigré engineer father from voluptuous gold-digger Valentina. With her proclivity for green satin underwear and boil-in-the-bag cuisine, she will stop at nothing in her pursuit of Western wealth. But the sisters' campaign to oust Valentina unearths family secrets, uncovers fifty years of Europe's darkest history and sends them back to roots they'd much rather forget . . . .


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A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian was bestselling author Marina Lewycka's bestselling debut novel which has sold over one million copies worldwide. Lewycka tells the side-splittingly funny story of two feuding sisters, Vera and Nadezhda, who join forces against their father's new, gold-digging girlfriend. Two years after my mother died, my father fell in love with a A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian was bestselling author Marina Lewycka's bestselling debut novel which has sold over one million copies worldwide. Lewycka tells the side-splittingly funny story of two feuding sisters, Vera and Nadezhda, who join forces against their father's new, gold-digging girlfriend. Two years after my mother died, my father fell in love with a glamorous blonde Ukrainian divorcée. He was eighty-four and she was thirty-six. She exploded into our lives like a fluffy pink grenade, churning up the murky water, bringing to the surface a sludge of sloughed-off memories, giving the family ghosts a kick up the backside. Sisters Vera and Nadezhda must aside a lifetime of feuding to save their émigré engineer father from voluptuous gold-digger Valentina. With her proclivity for green satin underwear and boil-in-the-bag cuisine, she will stop at nothing in her pursuit of Western wealth. But the sisters' campaign to oust Valentina unearths family secrets, uncovers fifty years of Europe's darkest history and sends them back to roots they'd much rather forget . . . .

30 review for A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian

  1. 4 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    This reads like the author has earnestly followed some kind of How To Write a Comic Novel course. 1 - write about what you know. Check! She's British Ukrainian and this is all about British Ukrainian stuff. 2 - Decide on a strong central narrator and give them a winning personality. Check! Boy oh boy does our first person narrator want you to like her. When I was reading this today and the doorbell rang I thought that was her come round with some freshly baked pampushky. As the story rolls along s This reads like the author has earnestly followed some kind of How To Write a Comic Novel course. 1 - write about what you know. Check! She's British Ukrainian and this is all about British Ukrainian stuff. 2 - Decide on a strong central narrator and give them a winning personality. Check! Boy oh boy does our first person narrator want you to like her. When I was reading this today and the doorbell rang I thought that was her come round with some freshly baked pampushky. As the story rolls along she's forever nudging your ribs and smirking loudly and huff-huffing at the silly things her characters do. 3 - Invent a bunch of lovably eccentric types - a VERY lovably eccentric yet exasperating yet LOVABLE father is recommended, everyone likes one of those. Check! Check! Check! For instance, the narrator is a sociology lecturer but her sister keeps calling her a social worker - that's quite funny on page 37! And there it is again on page 83, 96, 114 and 289. 4 - But make sure your readers know that this isn't just a trivial make-fun-of-the-daft-immigrants farce by adding in some DARK FAMILY HISTORY which since this is all about Ukrainians might well be pretty dark indeed. Make em laugh, make em cry. Very important. Check! After the farcical golddigging-hussy-is-trying-to-marry-my-father story comes the what-my-dad-did-in-the-holocaust section. 5 - In case that bastard Paul Bryant reviews your novel on Goodreads, namecheck his home town to put him in a good mood. Check! Nottingham! Right there on page 124. I had to give this prize-winning novel a whole extra star just for that.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nataliya

    Never before have I bought a book because of title alone. Plus, it was sandwiched between Nicholas Sparks (ughhh!) and "Eat, Pray, Love" (blerghhh!). I rescued it from this ghastly company and expected a grateful dose of funny in return. But instead of fun with tractors I got the above - the family squabbles, elderly abuse, well-hidden family secrets that nobody wants to unearth, the pent-up years of anger and frustration, and the misery of life. In a nutshell, it is a story of a very dysfunction Never before have I bought a book because of title alone. Plus, it was sandwiched between Nicholas Sparks (ughhh!) and "Eat, Pray, Love" (blerghhh!). I rescued it from this ghastly company and expected a grateful dose of funny in return. But instead of fun with tractors I got the above - the family squabbles, elderly abuse, well-hidden family secrets that nobody wants to unearth, the pent-up years of anger and frustration, and the misery of life. In a nutshell, it is a story of a very dysfunctional family, hiding its true nature behind the veil of dark comedy. "Our little exile family, held together by our mother's love and beetroot soup, has started to fall apart." To quote Leo Tolstoy, "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way". Narrated by a middle-aged sociology professor Nadezhda, this is a story of her small British family of Ukrainian immigrants which thrown into utter chaos by an unexpected arrival of a Ukrainian bombshell-tart Valentina, she of short denim skirts, high-heeled mules, Botticellian breasts, and an infamous green satin bra. "Two years after my mother died, my father fell in love with a glamorous blonde Ukrainian divorcée. He was eighty-four and she was thirty-six. She exploded into our lives like a fluffy pink grenade, churning up the murky water, bringing to the surface a sludge of sloughed-off memories, giving the family ghosts a kick up the backside." The Mayevskij family has never been really happy. The father, obsessed with technology and "Ukrainianism", the feuding sisters, a mutual hatred between father and daughter, and the death of the mother who kept this little dysfunctional family together. All of this does not exactly spell harmony, even without the addition of an oversexed buxom blonde who is clearly after a British visa and not as much after the charms of a man five decades her senior. All for the following reasons: Valentina is ready for anything to obtain the coveted comforts of Western life that the Westerners take for granted. Can you blame her? Can you NOT blame her? But isn't the idea of comfort and security what we are all after at some point in life? The "funny" that I was expecting from the back cover blurb is more of a smile-through-the-tears and throw-your-hands-up-in-the-air-in-resignation kind than simple side-splitting laughter. After all, there is nothing funny about elderly abuse or the loneliness that comes with age. And there is nothing funny about the old grudges that tear families apart. And so I think the sad humor that Lewytska chose for her book works very well in setting the perfect atmosphere, which is definitely the strength of this story. The characterization is quite interesting as well. None of Lewytska's characters are quite likable; they are petty and vicious and often quite ridiculous - but you cannot help but sympathize with them, even the intended villain Valentina. The author accomplishes it well by always pointing out the other side of the story, the other point of view, the alternate take on the events. Caricaturish at first, Lewytska's characters develop, show new sides of their personalities and come to life in an unexpected way all while remaining surprisingly outlandish "My mother had known ideology, and she had known hunger. When she was twenty-one, Stalin had discovered he could use famine as a political weapon against the Ukrainian kulaks. She knew - and this knowledge never left her throughout her fifty years of life in England, and then seeped from her into the hearts of her children - she knew for certain that behind the piled-high shelves and abundantly stocked counters of Tesco and the Co-op, hunger still prowls with his skeletal frame and gaping eyes, waiting to grab you the moment you are off your guard." The chaos of the Majevkij family present-day life is interspersed with the exerpts from a titular book about tractors (in Ukrainian) written by old Nikolaj which shed some light on a sad history of Ukraine in the 20th century, as well as bits and pieces of the sad history of Nadezhda's parents and grandparents in the middle of wars, famine, and concentration camp. As expected, the dark secrets help Nadezhda grasp the origins of the peculiarities of her kin, and help her finally come to understand where the ultimate differences between herself and her seemingly obnoxious sister Vera are coming from - the War Baby vs. the Peace Baby. "Doesn't she realise how time and memory fix everything? Doesn't she realise that once a story has been told one way, it cannot be retold another way? Doesn't she realise that some things must be covered up and buried, so the shame of them doesn't taint the next generation?" I did have a love-hate relationship with the writing. I loved Lewytska's ear for the characteristic Ukrainianisms in the speech of the characters. I did raise my eyebrows, however, at the predominance of Russian names in the family of the supposedly Russian-hating man, a mistake that a woman raised in Ukrainian family should not make. I did also notice quite a few instances when the first-person narrator suddenly became rather omniscient, giving us the emotions and feelings of the people she comes in contact with even though she has no way of actually knowing them. ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Overall, this book gets a solid 3.5 star rating from me. I enjoyed it quite a bit. I liked the story, but could not overlook the writing flaws. However, I really like Lewytska's narrative voice, and I will definitely be on the lookout for her other works.

  3. 4 out of 5

    F

    I hated this book. It took me so long to read it. I was recommended this book by my friend in work who is also a big reader. We had been discussing "the 100 year old man that stepped out the window and ran away" as we had both read it and loved it. I explained how I had a soft spot for books about old men. He suggested I read this book as he said it was similar. I can see the similarities but I just hated the old man in this story. He angered me and so did his stupid daughters. I hated all the ch I hated this book. It took me so long to read it. I was recommended this book by my friend in work who is also a big reader. We had been discussing "the 100 year old man that stepped out the window and ran away" as we had both read it and loved it. I explained how I had a soft spot for books about old men. He suggested I read this book as he said it was similar. I can see the similarities but I just hated the old man in this story. He angered me and so did his stupid daughters. I hated all the characters. Didn't like anybody. I got where it was trying to be funny but I just didn't like it. Parts of it when I read it just made me really sad and hurt when reading about the old mans struggle during the war and then with his new bride! The taunting and the bullying was cruel and made me feel awful reading it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Donald

    I recently picked this book up used at my local library for $1. The cover burst advertised that it was nominated for a Man Booker Prize, and the back cover copy boasted that it was an international bestseller that was shortlisted for the Orange Prize. My thoughts on that after reading the book: What the fuck? The quick synopsis of the plot is this: Gold-digging Ukrainian immigrant hussy latches on to an elderly Ukrainian widower in England, marries him, and tries to take his money and his house. H I recently picked this book up used at my local library for $1. The cover burst advertised that it was nominated for a Man Booker Prize, and the back cover copy boasted that it was an international bestseller that was shortlisted for the Orange Prize. My thoughts on that after reading the book: What the fuck? The quick synopsis of the plot is this: Gold-digging Ukrainian immigrant hussy latches on to an elderly Ukrainian widower in England, marries him, and tries to take his money and his house. His two adult daughters (Vera and Nadezhda) try to prevent it from happening. And that's pretty much it. There is an attempt at incorporating many zany characters along the way, and we learn about Vera and Nadezhda's strained relationship, and their relationship with their kooky father. Oh, and every single character is disgusting and hate-able. I almost found myself rooting for the hussy. Man, this book needed an editor, or at least one more (ruthless) revision. But it was nominated for the Booker, so what the hell do I know? What I do know, though, is this manuscript as is would never have made it out alive if presented to my writer's group. For instance, the author doesn't seem to have much confidence in her own writing. Written in the first person of the Nadezhda character, the narrative is constantly interrupted by the character's explanation of things in parenthesis. Even during dialogue! And it is a constant interruption. More than a handful of times I just wanted to scream out, "Let the fucking characters talk! Stop interrupting!" The other no-no that the author does is to somehow allow her lead first-person narrator to know what someone else is thinking. This is after the old man's young wife is treating him particularly bad: Maybe he would beat her if he could, but he cannot. For the first time he realises how helpless he is. His heart fills with despair. Oh really? How do you know this, Nadezhda? My writer's group would have taken me to task if I had presented them with this. As a writer, you are influenced by many authors and countless books. Sometimes you'll read something so good (think John Irving in his prime) that it inspires you, and shows you just how transcending the written word can be. Then you have a novel like this—which also influences you as a writer. By showing you what not to do. I need to read some Owen Meany now to cleanse myself. I feel so dirty. But what do I know? This thing was a best-selling, award-nominated novel.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kinga

    My literary tastes revolve around two extremes - the high brow stuff and utter trash usually called something like "To Marry a Duke" and I don't find much enjoyment in the safe, middle of the road, commercial fiction. Either challenge me properly or provide with the cheapest kind of thrills. Knowing that about myself, I don't know what possessed me to suggest this book as our book group read. Not only did I force myself and everybody else to read this questionable work but also now all my recomm My literary tastes revolve around two extremes - the high brow stuff and utter trash usually called something like "To Marry a Duke" and I don't find much enjoyment in the safe, middle of the road, commercial fiction. Either challenge me properly or provide with the cheapest kind of thrills. Knowing that about myself, I don't know what possessed me to suggest this book as our book group read. Not only did I force myself and everybody else to read this questionable work but also now all my recommendations are treated with distrust. See, my book club is not really into your typical book group reads and 'The Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian' has 'book group read' written all over it. And of course, the quirky title! Don't we all love quirky titles! They are so... quirky! Some reviewers mentioned how confusing this title was for them, because, you know, it says 'A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian' and yet it's not! If you are the sort of person who is confused by the fact that a Booker longlisted bestseller called 'Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian' is not in fact a history of tractors written in Ukrainian, then this book will probably be intellectually satisfying for you. It's a rather unimaginative and banal satire on Ukrainian immigrants in UK, a story of a young and pretty gold-digger, an old besotted fool and his two daughters who try to prevent the catastrophe and even resort to putting on hold old grudges, while uniting against this common enemy. The secret to good satire is to make fun of your characters but to do it with affection and affection is sorely missing from Lewicka's narrative. The characters are farcical caricatures who are nothing more than the laziest of stereotypes and copies of cliches the British reader was already familiar with. However, when the narrative switches to flashbacks from Ukraine decades ago, everything is very real and the same characters are supposed to be taken seriously, which produces a rather grotesque effect. There are also characters who are not even given this most basic, two-dimensional personality, they only exist as their name and function - like the completely superfluous narrator's husband. The execution is equally lazy - the style is tedious, it's as if Lewycka used up all her creativity on inventing the pidgin English Valentina, the gold digger, speaks in. What's interesting is that she seems unable to speak in grammatically correct sentences even if she is among other Ukrainians and the assumption is that they are speaking Ukrainian (because why would they be speaking English? This is not a Hollywood film). Of course, Valentina's dialect is quite amusing but completely unrealistic from a linguistical point of view (if you don't understand the most basic English grammar, you won't know words like 'shrivel'). As far as books on immigration go, this brings nothing new to the table. It brings back yesterday's bread that is now stale. The only potentially interesting thing about it is the mini-reflection on how our sanctimonious left-wing, liberal views can conveniently disappear if we find our very personal interests threatened. All in all, though, there is nothing to shake us in this book, nothing to challenge us. Nothing to see here. Move along.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nandakishore Varma

    There is an episode in the comedy sitcom Mind Your Language, where Jeremy Brown's motley crew of students drawn from all over the world to learn English tell jokes to pass the time. Juan Cervantes, the Spanish bartender, tells a hilarious joke: at the end, he is in stitches, unable to stifle laughter, because the joke is so funny. The problem is, it is wholly in Spanish, so nobody else in the class can understand. This novel left me feeling like one of those class members. This is the story of old There is an episode in the comedy sitcom Mind Your Language, where Jeremy Brown's motley crew of students drawn from all over the world to learn English tell jokes to pass the time. Juan Cervantes, the Spanish bartender, tells a hilarious joke: at the end, he is in stitches, unable to stifle laughter, because the joke is so funny. The problem is, it is wholly in Spanish, so nobody else in the class can understand. This novel left me feeling like one of those class members. This is the story of old Nikolai Mayevskyj (pronounced "Mayevski"), eccentric immigrant engineer from Ukraine who falls in love at the age of eighty-four with a sex-bomb, Valentina, who is thirty-six. Valentina has the only goal of finding domicile for herself and her "genius" son, Stanislav, in the UK: and the recently widowed engineer is an easy target. Nikolai's daughters Vera and Nadehzda (the first-person narrator) are appalled, and set about rescuing their father from this scheming vixen, burying their running feud about their mother's legacy temporarily. In the process, a lot of dirty family laundry is unearthed, a lot of distressing events take place, but true to the tradition of comic literature, things pan out in the end. If one believes the blurbs on the jacket, the novel is "extremely funny" (The Times), "mad and hilarious" (The Daily Telegraph) and "...a comic feast, a riotous oil painting of senility, lust and greed" (Economist). But I found it to be nothing of the sort. The deliberate comic tone of voice that the author adopted was jarring, in view of the fact that extremely serious matters like the abuse of the elderly was being described. You can't laugh such things off. Also, there is the matter of portrayal. All the characters were seriously lacking in sympathy: there is hardly a one there the reader will care to identify with. Many of the conversations (especially where a kind of pidgin English was used to parody the Ukrainians' imperfect grasp of the language) were narrated in a tone of mockery - and when an author mocks her own creations, how can the reader take them seriously? The book Nikolai is writing, A Short History of Tractors in the Ukrainian, is included as a sort of metaphor for the journey (historical, mental and physical) of the East European expatriate engineer, interested only in machines, from the communist East to the capitalist West. Nikolai's reading of excerpts of the book is interspersed with the main narrative throughout the novel, which though informative, failed to meld with the main story. The unspeakable horrors suffered by the family under Stalin and the Nazis somehow fail to make the impact they should, mainly because of the author's insistence on keeping up a comic tone. However, three stars for a worthwhile story, and a social problem well-presented. But one is forced to think Ms. Lewycka would have created more of an impact if the book was written in dead seriousness. There is nothing more distressing than a joke which falls flat.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Paula

    This book had so much going for it. First: a quirky title. Second: crazy Ukrainian immigrants. Third: a love story involving horny old people. And it managed to fail miserably on all three counts. Quick summary: Two sisters are estranged because of a mysterious event that happened 40 years ago in the Old Country. But their mother is dead and their father has taken up with a Ukrainian hussy. Also, he is writing a book about tractors. In Ukrainian. Hussy terrorizes father, sisters must get over the This book had so much going for it. First: a quirky title. Second: crazy Ukrainian immigrants. Third: a love story involving horny old people. And it managed to fail miserably on all three counts. Quick summary: Two sisters are estranged because of a mysterious event that happened 40 years ago in the Old Country. But their mother is dead and their father has taken up with a Ukrainian hussy. Also, he is writing a book about tractors. In Ukrainian. Hussy terrorizes father, sisters must get over their past to drive her out of the country. Lessons are learned. The end. Still doesn't sound so bad? The reason I hated this book (and, in fact, completely forgot about it until recently) is because these are some of the worst characters ever to be described. Both sisters are self-absorbed and vicious, but not in a humorous way. The father is worthless and completely incapable of helping himself out of the situations he got himself into in the first place. The hussy is over-the-top and obnoxious. So instead of sympathizing with all the characters, you feel like they all deserved what they got, and should just go on being miserable. Only, without you reading about them. In sum: Horrible, horrible book. Hopefully I can go back to forgetting about it now.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Cecily

    Adult sisters warring over parent(s), money, step mother etc. The extracts about the history of tractors are a gimmick that ought to have more relevance to justify its inclusion; the characters and plot are unoriginal and superficial and the attempts at humour feel lame. I can't figure out the target audience, how was it shortlisted for the Orange prize (just a pun on Ukraine's Orange Revolution?) or selected as Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime? An adult plot, but written with limited vocab (except for Adult sisters warring over parent(s), money, step mother etc. The extracts about the history of tractors are a gimmick that ought to have more relevance to justify its inclusion; the characters and plot are unoriginal and superficial and the attempts at humour feel lame. I can't figure out the target audience, how was it shortlisted for the Orange prize (just a pun on Ukraine's Orange Revolution?) or selected as Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime? An adult plot, but written with limited vocab (except for "susurration"), short sentences, short paragraphs and short chapters. It would be ideal for an adult literacy or TEFL group. In contrast, some YA books (e.g. Harry Potter) require more time, language skill and thought than this. A beach read, perhaps? Can anyone enlighten me as to why it's so popular - what aspect have I overlooked?

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ian "Marvin" Graye

    Tractor Attraction I knew that this book existed for some time. However, something about the title didn't attract me. I think I have always assumed that I would prefer a book about American tractors. Then one week I saw it again, bought it and read it within a week. I was ready for it. Our lives had mysteriously moved into alignment. Not So Secret Family Business Although it is set within a Ukrainian British family and it takes hilarious advantage of this fact, it reveals a lot about families gener Tractor Attraction I knew that this book existed for some time. However, something about the title didn't attract me. I think I have always assumed that I would prefer a book about American tractors. Then one week I saw it again, bought it and read it within a week. I was ready for it. Our lives had mysteriously moved into alignment. Not So Secret Family Business Although it is set within a Ukrainian British family and it takes hilarious advantage of this fact, it reveals a lot about families generally. Particularly, the interactions and dynamics between family members. Relentlessly Un-Self-Pitying Tolstoy said "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way" at the beginning of Anna Karenina. I think this book goes one step further. Although there might be happiness and unhappiness in this family, I don't think they stop to think and dwell on it that much. It isn't a cause of self-pity. They just get on with their lives in a relentless way. Uniquely Funny What is different about them is that they are funny. Maybe unfunny families are all alike, but every funny family is funny in its own way. Senses of humour vary enormously. But humourlessness doesn't change that much. Beyond Tractors I hope the author can make a transition away from the Ukrainian migrant subject matter and still be insightful and funny. That must sound terrible...what I mean is that she has enormous skills and I'd love to see her apply them to any topic of her choice. (Does that sound better?) Originally posted: Feb 22, 2011

  10. 5 out of 5

    Margitte

    This book has such a long blurb that I don't want to use it here. Suffice to say that it is a perfect summary of the book. But here it is for those who would like to read it as part of my review: (view spoiler)["A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian was bestselling author Marina Lewycka's bestselling debut novel which has sold over one million copies worldwide. Lewycka tells the side-splittingly funny story of two feuding sisters, Vera and Nadezhda, who join forces against their father's new, This book has such a long blurb that I don't want to use it here. Suffice to say that it is a perfect summary of the book. But here it is for those who would like to read it as part of my review: (view spoiler)["A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian was bestselling author Marina Lewycka's bestselling debut novel which has sold over one million copies worldwide. Lewycka tells the side-splittingly funny story of two feuding sisters, Vera and Nadezhda, who join forces against their father's new, gold-digging girlfriend. 'Two years after my mother died, my father fell in love with a glamorous blonde Ukrainian divorcée. He was eighty-four and she was thirty-six. She exploded into our lives like a fluffy pink grenade, churning up the murky water, bringing to the surface a sludge of sloughed-off memories, giving the family ghosts a kick up the backside.' Sisters Vera and Nadezhda must aside a lifetime of feuding to save their émigré engineer father from voluptuous gold-digger Valentina. With her proclivity for green satin underwear and boil-in-the-bag cuisine, she will stop at nothing in her pursuit of Western wealth. But the sisters' campaign to oust Valentina unearths family secrets, uncovers fifty years of Europe's darkest history and sends them back to roots they'd much rather forget . . . 'It's rare to find a first novel that gets so much right...Lewycka is a seriously talented comic writer' Time Out 'Hugely enjoyable...yields a golden harvest of family truths' Daily Telegraph 'Delightful, funny, touching' Spectator (hide spoiler)] COMMENTS This book was as much a funny, as a sad story about Ukrainian immigrants in Britain. Messy, chaotic lives with a dark, heartbreaking undertone. Refugees after WWII, they were a typical family who must start over in modern England living out the immigrant experience. Part tragedy, part comedy, the story present the typical life of people who plastered a smile on their faces during the day and relived the horror of the war in their nocturnal dreams. Two sisters have to save their octogenarian father, with an extremely stubborn streak, from getting married to a thirty-five year old gold digger after his wife's death two years before. The two sisters do not have a good relationship due to the family history that was not shared between them. One was a war baby and the other a peace baby with a world of untold horror lying between them. But as they start to work together as a team, the healing and understanding comes and the family can find love and support within their own small circle again. Despite the dark memories and family feud raging between the sisters, it was still a warmhearted story. There were moments in the book that I simply allowed the tears to silently run down my face. But by the end, I smiled and wished the book did not end. The book dragged a bit with too much historical information thrown in as page fillers. But I thoroughly enjoyed the ambiance and the good writing. It was absolutely worth the read. I will read this author again, for sure. In fact, it is one of those book that I would love to read again, simply because I am going to miss this family a lot.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    I picked up this book because it had rave reviews printed all over the back and inside covers about how hillarious it was. I don't know if i'm missing something but I didn't find this book funny at all. I think it dealt with alot of serious issues, and was quite educational about the history of Ukraine and the perceptions of the west. Maybe there was some black comedy element I was missing, but to me I just didn't find an old man being abused, war and people mispronouncing English words amusing. I picked up this book because it had rave reviews printed all over the back and inside covers about how hillarious it was. I don't know if i'm missing something but I didn't find this book funny at all. I think it dealt with alot of serious issues, and was quite educational about the history of Ukraine and the perceptions of the west. Maybe there was some black comedy element I was missing, but to me I just didn't find an old man being abused, war and people mispronouncing English words amusing. It had an okay pace and style and a collection of interesting themes, but the themes were not developed and the characters were a little two dimensional. I found the nicknames annoying: Big Sis, Bogeynose, Mrs Divorce Expert, Mrs Flog 'em and send 'em home. Okay maybe once this might be funny but constantly using them was just annoying. Names would have been more than sufficient. Also I think the whole tractor section was irrelevant. I have to admit I skimmed some of the latter ones because the earlier ones had been so boring I'm not sure if I would read another book by this author. Considering this was a first attempt it was pretty good, but i'd expect a big improvement in a second novel.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Maciek

    A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian made the Booker longlist for 2005, which is quite a feat for a debut novel - and one of the two reasons why I chose to read it. The other one is, of course, its quirky title - I just couldn't pass a book titled like that, even though I profess absolutely no knowledge of even the most rudimentary Ukrainian. My knowledge of tractors is not much better - I'm able to identify one when I see it, but that's pretty much it. A Short History of Tractors... is the s A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian made the Booker longlist for 2005, which is quite a feat for a debut novel - and one of the two reasons why I chose to read it. The other one is, of course, its quirky title - I just couldn't pass a book titled like that, even though I profess absolutely no knowledge of even the most rudimentary Ukrainian. My knowledge of tractors is not much better - I'm able to identify one when I see it, but that's pretty much it. A Short History of Tractors... is the story of two British Ukrainian sisters, Vera and Nadezhda, whose life turns upside down when their elderly, widowed father falls in love again - with Valentina, a much younger (and voluptous) Ukrainian woman, whom he intends to marry. Both sisters react with horror to the news that the marriage is only arranged for Valentina to settle permanently in the UK, but their warnings fall on deaf ears - the cheeky bugger is dead set. What follows is a whimsical sequence of events as Nadezhda and Vera try to prevent their father from marrying Valentina, combined revelations about their own family, pieces from the long and troubled history of Ukraine, and their father's life work - the grand history of the Ukrainian tractor. All this sounds fine - and perhaps just isn't for me. The premise - two estranged sisters have to overcome their differences in order to save their senile father from the claws of an opportunistic woman - is captivating, but doesn't quite deliver. None of the characters are particularly interesting or multifaceted: the old man is pointlessly pathetic and helpless, his daughters are too self-absorbed for us to really like them and Valentina is nothing more than a stereotypical gold-digger, and the only real attempt at presenting her culture and ethnicity in the novel is to simplify her sentence structure and have her mispronounce all the English words. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian also aims to be at least partially a presentation of Ukrainian history - published in a Western country and aimed towards a Western audience, and one which doesn't know much about the country (though with current events taking place there we've seen a sudden and amazing increase in experts on all things Ukraine - most of whom probably couldn't find it on the map a few months before). I'm not a Westerner and I don't live in a Western society, and I know where Ukraine is and even a little bit about its history - and this is why I was disappointed to see such an interesting subject to be basically brushed over, and learned nothing new. The part about the tractor seems to have no real relevance to the plot or the text altogether, except for Ms. Lewycka wanting to put it in there for some reason. To sum it up: this isn't a bad book - it's certainly readable and can be entertaining - but it's not what I'd categorize as Booker material, so I'm not surprised that it didn't make the shortlist. Still, it is a debut novel and shows some potential - I'm willing to give Ms. Lewycka another go, and read one of her later novels. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian can provide for a few hours of pleasurable reading to pass the time on the bus or the metro, but those seeking an entry window to the history of Ukraine or human drama with more depth than a puddle would be better served elsewhere.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

    This book sat on my shelf for months before I finally sat down to read it. There was no good reason for my hesitance – the book has glowing reviews and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize – for some reason it just didn’t appeal to me. You know the phrase ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’? Well I do this, all the time, and I think that was the reason behind my mental block. My mind could not make the link between the words 'history', 'tractors', 'Ukrainian' and the comedy that the blurb on the b This book sat on my shelf for months before I finally sat down to read it. There was no good reason for my hesitance – the book has glowing reviews and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize – for some reason it just didn’t appeal to me. You know the phrase ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’? Well I do this, all the time, and I think that was the reason behind my mental block. My mind could not make the link between the words 'history', 'tractors', 'Ukrainian' and the comedy that the blurb on the back promised. I know now that I was wrong. This is a well-written, very funny story about a sad situation and some serious concepts. Told by the character of Nadezhda, this is the tale of her father’s second marriage to the much-younger Valentina. In the book’s opening words (so much better than mine): 'Two years after my mother died, my father fell in love with a glamorous blonde Ukrainian divorcee. He was eighty-four and she was thirty-six. She exploded into our lives like a fluffy pink grenade, churning up the murky water, bringing to the surface a sludge of sloughed-off memories, giving the family ghosts a kick up the backside.’ The author has an ear for the peculiarity of English as a second language and, in the character of Valentina, has created one of the most amusing villains ever. Into this larger-than-life character are poured all sorts of wonderful insults and bare-faced gold-digging that would put this country’s Wags to shame. Nadezhda’s father is well-developed as a character as well, having the stubbornness familiar to old men everywhere, backed with a horrific personal history. He relates his slant on some of his past with his book, A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, passages of which intersperse the main story. Sadly, some of the deeper meaning is inevitably lost, falling victim to the comedy situations and emotional development, so that the conclusion is something of an anti-climax. I also felt that the narrator’s character remained something of a mystery to me, despite her revealing her family’s secrets she didn’t really share too much of her own feelings. But these are minor quibbles with a very high-quality book, which should be recommended to any chick-lit-lovers who think that funny must automatically mean fluffy. This is a book with a heart, soul and funny bone all firmly in place. Although I still think the cover is terrible.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Em*bedded-in-books*

    Long listed for Man Booker, this eccentric book tells the story of how an 84 year old fell in love with a 34 year old, and got married, to the consternation of his daughters who were much older than their step mom. Valentina, the 34 year old Ukranian illegal refugee had only one aim - to become a citizen of UK.. and she didn't mind marrying for it. Whereas the old man, bit of a megalomaniac, fell in love.. and even wanted a male progeny from the union. This dark satire revolves around how his dau Long listed for Man Booker, this eccentric book tells the story of how an 84 year old fell in love with a 34 year old, and got married, to the consternation of his daughters who were much older than their step mom. Valentina, the 34 year old Ukranian illegal refugee had only one aim - to become a citizen of UK.. and she didn't mind marrying for it. Whereas the old man, bit of a megalomaniac, fell in love.. and even wanted a male progeny from the union. This dark satire revolves around how his daughters try to save him from his young, new dangerous wife, who resorted to verbal and physical abuse to get things done. Was an eye opener towards human aspirations, follies and fickleness. Along with the old man's story, I gathered considerable knowledge on the history of tractors in Ukrainian, and also an inkling of its political situation. Recommended to all those who like to read "different" stories.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Shannon (Giraffe Days)

    I was so happy to finally get a copy of this book, after coming across it in little Cosmos bookshop in St. Kilda about 2 years ago, even though I couldn't get an edition with the nicer tractor cover. I just find it tacky to print the first two sentences on the front cover, even though it is a catchy beginning. It was certainly not quite what I was expecting - because it was nominated for the Man Booker Prize last year, I guess I was expecting something a bit heavier, more depressing. But this boo I was so happy to finally get a copy of this book, after coming across it in little Cosmos bookshop in St. Kilda about 2 years ago, even though I couldn't get an edition with the nicer tractor cover. I just find it tacky to print the first two sentences on the front cover, even though it is a catchy beginning. It was certainly not quite what I was expecting - because it was nominated for the Man Booker Prize last year, I guess I was expecting something a bit heavier, more depressing. But this book is hilarious. It's heavily ironic, surprisingly dialogue-based, yet so much is revealed in subtle ways. Nadezhda (Nadia for short) and her Big Sis, Vera, lost their mother two years ago and have been fighting ever since over the will. Now they are brought together by a common goal: to prevent their 84 year old father, Nikolai, from marrying a Ukrainian gold digger with big boobs. Their words, not mine. Nadia's story is interspersed with excerpts from her father's work on tractors (he was an engineer), and the tale of her grandparents, parents, the war and how they came to be in England. This story is so neatly balanced between the humour and farce of the present "situation" and the scary, desperate past. The past sections are not told in a morbid fashion, though. It's hard to put my finger on what it is exactly, but the narrative has that almost stale taste you acquire when telling a story not your own: Nadia was the Peace baby, Vera the War baby, and Big Sis is very tight-lipped. Nadia has to piece together the past, and Vera's account doesn't always match their father's. Another thing I loved was the familiarity of the English world: although I have never been, I found great heart in the fact that the text had not been altered for a North American readership. Words like "capsicum" are still there, little golden nuggets to stumble across in the story. (For anyone who doesn't know, capsicum is the "real" word for "pepper", as in, bell pepper. The capsicum family, it is. It's the word we use in Australia, too.) I loved this book, but I'm having trouble getting past my positive reaction to really understand it. I'm sure there's more to it than what's on the surface.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Oriana

    Well this gets a big meh. It felt like paint-by-numbers noveling: take a fucked up family, add some culturally sensitive and upsetting history, intersperse it with a quirky thing one of them does. So: two embittered, estranged sisters have to work together to help save their aging father from the much younger woman who has her talons in him / parents came from the Ukraine and survived war and purges and internment camps and other horrors / dad is (when not trying to fondle his new wife's big fak Well this gets a big meh. It felt like paint-by-numbers noveling: take a fucked up family, add some culturally sensitive and upsetting history, intersperse it with a quirky thing one of them does. So: two embittered, estranged sisters have to work together to help save their aging father from the much younger woman who has her talons in him / parents came from the Ukraine and survived war and purges and internment camps and other horrors / dad is (when not trying to fondle his new wife's big fake tits) writing the definitive history of tractors. Meh. Neat premise, I guess, but a pretty boring execution. Flat, caricaturish characters, wooden dialogue interspersed with spoon-fed thoughts the main character has while talking, predictable plot arc, etc. Meh and meh.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Joachim

    This was a surprisingly touching book about a (very) dysfunctional family. I don't usually like this kind of book, but I was totally hooked it kept me up at night a couple of times - it's that good. I disagree with the reviews, however, which invariably claim that this is a hilarious book. It was funny and sad at the same time. When it was funny, it was chuckle-funny, not lough-out-loud. It's more of a real-life story about people and their problems, blown out of proportion with (slightly) oversi This was a surprisingly touching book about a (very) dysfunctional family. I don't usually like this kind of book, but I was totally hooked it kept me up at night a couple of times - it's that good. I disagree with the reviews, however, which invariably claim that this is a hilarious book. It was funny and sad at the same time. When it was funny, it was chuckle-funny, not lough-out-loud. It's more of a real-life story about people and their problems, blown out of proportion with (slightly) oversize characters. I like how the characters are so rich and real. I really got mad against Valentina, but then increasingly conflicted as I realized that the protagonist's father was equally to blame for the insane situation described in the book. It makes you realize how complicated we are - how we can be brilliant in some areas of our lives and then complete idiots in others, without even noticing it, much to the detriment of our loved ones. A wonderful and thoughtful book. And totally off the wall.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    This book, despite all of its stars and reviews and etc etc was a huge disappointment. It's rare that I don't finish a book but I became so apathetic to this one that by page 180 I just left it on the floor of my room and later returned it to the library. I have no interest to know how it ends. The characters ply you for sympathy in maudlin fashion and cliches drip off every page. Here is a summary of the book: Hey! We're Ukrainian! We have a dark family past! But we're really sardonic too! Hey! This book, despite all of its stars and reviews and etc etc was a huge disappointment. It's rare that I don't finish a book but I became so apathetic to this one that by page 180 I just left it on the floor of my room and later returned it to the library. I have no interest to know how it ends. The characters ply you for sympathy in maudlin fashion and cliches drip off every page. Here is a summary of the book: Hey! We're Ukrainian! We have a dark family past! But we're really sardonic too! Hey! Look at this writing, isn't it qual-i-tay? HEY! GIVE US AN ORANGE PRIZE! We're SO WACKY! There, now you don't have to read it.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Vonia

    A Short History Of Tractors In Ukrainian is advertised as being an extremely comical take on family drama. The latter I can agree with. The former, maybe not so much. I had a few smiles, sure. But I never laughed out loud, which is my (maybe unnecessarily high standard) definition of a truly humorous novel. It was, however, a portrayal of the ridiculousness of the green card process (if the amount of marriages bought with the sole purpose of citizenship is any indication) and the inherent obstac A Short History Of Tractors In Ukrainian is advertised as being an extremely comical take on family drama. The latter I can agree with. The former, maybe not so much. I had a few smiles, sure. But I never laughed out loud, which is my (maybe unnecessarily high standard) definition of a truly humorous novel. It was, however, a portrayal of the ridiculousness of the green card process (if the amount of marriages bought with the sole purpose of citizenship is any indication) and the inherent obstacles in immigrating here that took a comical rather than serious angle, making this, overall, a short, lighthearted read. I say "overall" because there were definitely a few tragic, depressingly honest chapters regarding the Mayevskyj Family history. Nikolai and Ludmilla, parents to sisters Nadezhda (our narrator) and Vera (Big Sister), were originally from Ukraine, surviving through wars, communism, concentration camps, Stalin's totalitarian reign, etcetera. Grief and death, separation from family members, living in fear, close ones disappearing in the dark of the night; they endured it all. Later labeled "War Baby" by younger sister Nadezhda ("Peace Baby", of course), was also a victim of these sad circumstances in her earlier years. Since the death of their mother a couple years ago, the two sisters have been feuding regarding the inheritance, barely on talking terms. (Vera convinced their mother on her death bed to alter her will to divide it between the grandaughters rather than her daughters; Vera, of course, has two on Nedezhda's one.) When her father calls to announce that he is getting married to one "Valentina", with "Bottecellian" breasts, twenty years younger, in need of green card citizenship passage via marriage certificate, Nadezhda is resigned to the fate that their father's well-being is more important the sibling rivalry. She reaches out to Big Sister. The two of them collaborate, investigating, intervening consoling, counseling, as Nikolai can be quite the stubborn old man, set in his ways and sometimes convoluted ideals. The two sisters inevitably bond, making up and becoming far closer the more time they spend together coming to the rescue of their father. As predicted, Valentina is extremely careless with what little finances he has; she demands very specific brand names on the things he is mandated to provide her with, including three vehicles and a specific color pressure cooker. She is obviously seeing other men, but her adultery is something her husband refuses to admit (only indirectly when she has a son that is not his). She also begins emotionally, physically, verbally abusing him. Blinded by three primary things, physical infatuation, his desire to have a son (Standinolov, her son, has come from Ukraine with Valentina), + his perceived obligation to save those from his country (Ukraine is still currently in communism rule, impoverished communities), their father continues alternating, sometimes simultaneously, proclaiming his love for her and/or expressing his fear that she will murder him. Indeed, Valentina is quite the colorful character, initiating numerous hilarious scenarios. Coupled with a slightly senile old man for a husband, two feuding sisters, and their mother, still very alive in spirit, all with colorful personalities of their own, you have a cast of characters made for a comedy show. The title here is actually referring to the work Nikolai penned, completing by the conclusion of the novel. Always having a passion for tractors, especially in relation to his native Ukraine, he often reads from his text to visitors. One of his preferred audience members in Michael, Nadezhda's husband, as he is an engineer. As a nice addition to the novel, Lewycka includes detailed scholarly information regarding the history for Ford's first tractors, the success found by John Deere, & the significance farming technologies had in our world, especially during war times under Stalin's reign.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly

    That's what he is writing, a short history of tractors. In Ukrainian. Eighty-four years old, an engineer, a chess player and a father of two daughters, he had been recently widowed. Now he decides to marry a 36-year-old blonde Ukrainian divorcee with a teenage son and a pair of superior breasts. He knows that she wants to marry him only for his money and so that she and her son can make permanent their stay in England (where he and his family had migrated a long time ago) but he looks at her gol That's what he is writing, a short history of tractors. In Ukrainian. Eighty-four years old, an engineer, a chess player and a father of two daughters, he had been recently widowed. Now he decides to marry a 36-year-old blonde Ukrainian divorcee with a teenage son and a pair of superior breasts. He knows that she wants to marry him only for his money and so that she and her son can make permanent their stay in England (where he and his family had migrated a long time ago) but he looks at her golden hair, charming eyes, curves and jiggling breasts and say "so what?" His two grownup daughters, born ten years apart, and have been feuding ever since, have temporarily united against this common enemy aptly named Valentina. Why the widower-father shifted his interest to tractors instead of airplanes (his real passion), why his wife married him and stayed with him for 60 years until she died even if she didn't really love him, why their two daughters are so different from each other and couldn't get along, what happened to them during the war and before they migrated to England, these are among the family secrets skillfully unearthed, layer by layer, by this talented first-time novelist and which gave this book a memorably bittersweet relish.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Genia Lukin

    I think I may have actually not enjoyed this book because, and I am going to level with people here, I am prejudiced against Ukrainians. Let me just elaborate here, in order to clarify statement. Much of my family comes from the Ukraine, in one form or another. my father's mother is Ukrainian, my grandfather is from Cossac stock... but the major part of my family are Ukrainian Jews, by way of Russia. And as Ukrainian culturally Russian Jews... Well, let's just say that the major Ukrainian nationa I think I may have actually not enjoyed this book because, and I am going to level with people here, I am prejudiced against Ukrainians. Let me just elaborate here, in order to clarify statement. Much of my family comes from the Ukraine, in one form or another. my father's mother is Ukrainian, my grandfather is from Cossac stock... but the major part of my family are Ukrainian Jews, by way of Russia. And as Ukrainian culturally Russian Jews... Well, let's just say that the major Ukrainian national heroes are our giant traumatic monsters. I'm looking at you, Bogdan Khmelnitski. So when I read about the plight of Ukraine, all I can think of is 'yeah, and guess whom you took it all out on'. And the father of the family is horrifically anti-Russian, including anti-Russian language, which, you know, probably isn't helping. And then the author goes and uses a metaphor along the lines of "Snow [...] settled like the pillows of innocent children on the slopes of Babi Yar." Er. Uh. Just... Babi Yar. Really. Next time let's find a Polish book talking about the virgin forests of Auschwitz. There are other reasons, too. This book is trying too hard to be cutesy, including over things that really don't lend themselves to cutesy treatment. Abuse, haha. It might have been meant ironically, of course, but the irony didn't come through. it felt more like a farce or a tragedy than a satire, in a lot of ways. The style itself didn't really do me much good. And the characters were one and all extremely unsympathetic. It also bothered me, quite a bit, that the entire dialogue was in broken, choppy English. Even when, presumably, the people speaking would be doing so in Ukrainian and would have no reason whatsoever to sound like they're two days off the boat. I mean, are we really expected to think that the father and Valentina would be yelling in English at each other? On the other hand, I can't deny that the book is readable. it's not trying to be abstruse, it flows pretty decently, it took me relatively little time, and as a read was fairly enjoyable. There were moments of good dialogue, and some things that made this child of immigrants sort of smile and roll her eyes. So there's that.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    A novel that reads like a memoir, sometimes funny, sometimes sad, often outrageous. I think the characters were extremely real, I felt like I was reading a memoir and though their language and treatment of each other was on the far end of dysfunctional, there was also a lot of love and family togetherness. It basically is about two sisters trying to save their aging father from being duped by a much younger buxom Ukranian refugee. I kept thinking of Anna Nicole Smith—her outrageousness, her marr A novel that reads like a memoir, sometimes funny, sometimes sad, often outrageous. I think the characters were extremely real, I felt like I was reading a memoir and though their language and treatment of each other was on the far end of dysfunctional, there was also a lot of love and family togetherness. It basically is about two sisters trying to save their aging father from being duped by a much younger buxom Ukranian refugee. I kept thinking of Anna Nicole Smith—her outrageousness, her marriage to a wealthy old man and a baby who several men claim as theirs. I liked the book but at the same time I found it shocking.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Shovelmonkey1

    Thought this was a great book (despite myself). Easy to read, engaging, likeable characters and well written. The story deals with Nadia, Vera and their wayward Papa (author of the eponymous tractor book) as he deals with the death of their mother and then decides to accquire a young wife from the Ukraine. The arrival of the pneumatically breasted Valentina (part Valkyrie part 60's sex siren) throws the family into chaos and brings to light a lot of forgotten family history. Not laugh out loud f Thought this was a great book (despite myself). Easy to read, engaging, likeable characters and well written. The story deals with Nadia, Vera and their wayward Papa (author of the eponymous tractor book) as he deals with the death of their mother and then decides to accquire a young wife from the Ukraine. The arrival of the pneumatically breasted Valentina (part Valkyrie part 60's sex siren) throws the family into chaos and brings to light a lot of forgotten family history. Not laugh out loud funny but definately a good book to settle down with on a rainy afternoon and if I'm any judge of popular culture I'm sure this got as many thumbs up as Richard Madely could give it in the This Morning book club, although that's probably because Richard got distracted by the bright colours on the cover.

  24. 4 out of 5

    L.A. Starks

    This play has some wonderfully-drawn, evocative characters. While the message is more down-to-earth than side-splittingly funny, the approach (with a nod toward Tolstoy) and the offbeat poetry make this a thoroughly refreshing read. Recommended!

  25. 5 out of 5

    chelka

    A librarian co-worker recommended this book to me, describing it as funny and quirky. She knows I come from a Polish family and frequently recommends Russian, Polish, and other Eastern European literature. I find it interesting to read as I was not brought up with any sense of E. European culture, and this book made me wonder what I would be like if I had experienced more Polish-ness. The story revolves around two sisters in their fifties who must sit back while their recently-widowed father mar A librarian co-worker recommended this book to me, describing it as funny and quirky. She knows I come from a Polish family and frequently recommends Russian, Polish, and other Eastern European literature. I find it interesting to read as I was not brought up with any sense of E. European culture, and this book made me wonder what I would be like if I had experienced more Polish-ness. The story revolves around two sisters in their fifties who must sit back while their recently-widowed father marries a 35-year-old Ukranian gold-digger. Although the sisters are Ukranian as well, they come from a different generation--one inundated with war experiences, rationing, and poverty. This younger woman simply wants to own everything Western and "civilized." Their father had intended to save this woman from Ukranian poverty and communism, but ends up cowering before her demands (she wants money, a Range Rover, and a "civilized" Hoover). He only feels brave and happy while writing his history of tractors. This history, along with one of the sister's memories, provide a brief look into the Ukraine during WWII. It gives the book a sober air, contrasting sharply with the pettiness and humor of the current situation. My co-worker also described this book as "infelicitous," mostly because it is the author's first novel. While I also found it slightly awkward in places, I thought it was incredibly impressive for a first work. I describe myself as a sci-fi/fantasy geek and rarely read realistic fiction, but I enjoyed A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Alta

    One of the most enjoyable novels I've ever read: extremely funny, witty, and the Ukrainian characters are unforgettable. In fact, the book was so entertaining that I (an elitist) felt guilty because I assumed that it's the kind of novel anyone would love. So, out of curiosity I took a look at the reviews on Goodreads and... surprise: many reviews were quite negative. This may be explained by the fact that behind the lightness of the book hides a very serious subtext: the author, who was born of One of the most enjoyable novels I've ever read: extremely funny, witty, and the Ukrainian characters are unforgettable. In fact, the book was so entertaining that I (an elitist) felt guilty because I assumed that it's the kind of novel anyone would love. So, out of curiosity I took a look at the reviews on Goodreads and... surprise: many reviews were quite negative. This may be explained by the fact that behind the lightness of the book hides a very serious subtext: the author, who was born of Ukrainian parents in a German refugee camp understands history. The Ukrainian political situation and history are very well analyzed (albeit indirectly, through dialogue--btw, the author has a great gift for dialogue). Although this is a first novel (written by a mature writer, and this shows), the structure of the novel is flawless, reminding me at times of the great Russian novels of the past, in which suspense is very well calibrated and the dramatic tension culminates in scenes where all the characters are present (usually at a dinner, a party or a gathering).

  27. 4 out of 5

    Punk

    Fiction. This book isn't nearly as charming as its title, which, I'll confess, is the main reason I bought it. Mostly it's about a horny, pathetic old man who is being exploited by his much younger, practically mail-order wife. I finished it, but just barely. The characters are Ukrainian and living in England, but don't expect to learn much about what that means for them. There's a lot of family drama, elder abuse, and not much characterization. The first person narrator, the old man's adult daug Fiction. This book isn't nearly as charming as its title, which, I'll confess, is the main reason I bought it. Mostly it's about a horny, pathetic old man who is being exploited by his much younger, practically mail-order wife. I finished it, but just barely. The characters are Ukrainian and living in England, but don't expect to learn much about what that means for them. There's a lot of family drama, elder abuse, and not much characterization. The first person narrator, the old man's adult daughter, is practically see-through she's so flimsy. It's obvious she's just an excuse to tell her father's story and not an actual person in her own right. The book actually does contain a short history of tractors in Ukrainian. Set against the backdrop of communism and its exploitation of the Ukrainian people and land, these parts were simple and well-done, tying into the current narrative without too many anvils to the head. Two stars. I enjoyed the renewed sense of family toward the end, but it didn't make up for the extended abuse and neglect.

  28. 5 out of 5

    K

    Dumb, dumb, dumb. I have no idea why British newspapers raved about the funniness of this book -- and I usually love British humor! But this was no David Lodge. It might have worked as a short story, but as a novel it was the same joke over and over, and it got increasingly unbelievable. Additionally, although the characters apparently spoke Ukrainian, all their conversations took place in broken English. Why would a bunch of Ukrainians get together and converse in broken English? Oh -- silly me Dumb, dumb, dumb. I have no idea why British newspapers raved about the funniness of this book -- and I usually love British humor! But this was no David Lodge. It might have worked as a short story, but as a novel it was the same joke over and over, and it got increasingly unbelievable. Additionally, although the characters apparently spoke Ukrainian, all their conversations took place in broken English. Why would a bunch of Ukrainians get together and converse in broken English? Oh -- silly me, to try to make the book funny.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Pradnya K.

    That was an accident, to find this book. I had been to a book sale and returned, scrounging through it, empty-handed. I was about to leave the venue when a friend arrived, we returned to the venue and he sorted out books for me, all remarkable one that I couldn't see at the first time and there sits this one on top, the short history of the tractors in Ukrainian. I liked the narrative since very beginning. The modern English with tint of colloquial conversation, the post worldwar setting of past That was an accident, to find this book. I had been to a book sale and returned, scrounging through it, empty-handed. I was about to leave the venue when a friend arrived, we returned to the venue and he sorted out books for me, all remarkable one that I couldn't see at the first time and there sits this one on top, the short history of the tractors in Ukrainian. I liked the narrative since very beginning. The modern English with tint of colloquial conversation, the post worldwar setting of past, the two daughters and an eccentric bereaved old man, and a voluptuous Valentina. ( I can't call her vamp or villain for the reason the narrator is obsessed with her in some ways) I find the book mostly hilarious, throwing light on a lot of European history I wasn't aware of, sketching so convincing with vivid characters, and to my surprise, having a teary-eyed end, something I didn't see coming. Without taking sides, the author compares the life of immigrants in-and-out, the desperation of human beings to climb and cling to the peaks dictated by their beliefs, persuation of happiness in the materialistic and the love (and lust) I was bit apprehensive after reading an excellent review of the book which didn't recommend it. I felt I might end up disappointed but I'm so glad I kept going. The story revolves around an aged man of mid-eighties who after two years of bereavement finds himself falling in love with an illegal immigrant of mid-thirties,Valentina, a raucous woman from Ukraine who wants to settle in UK and have a good life for herself and her son. The man has two daughters with a constant revelry. At times reader ends up taking side of one daughter and yet can relate to the other though both of them don't get along all the while. When their father tries to hide about his to-be bride, the daughters decide to bring her scheme to light. Though it's a farce it takes some serious turns on the way and worth giving a read. Some dialogues are so funny they stay with us for long time, esp, the ones said by Valentina, in her broken English. Witty, thoughtprovoking, knowledgeable, and at times touching deep social-political problems, this is definitely a good read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Imi

    This peaked at the quirky title. Any of the jokes that were vaguely amusing at the start of the quickly lost their charm as they were repeated again and again throughout. None of the characters or themes were developed in any meaningful way, and most of the attempts of humour felt cheap, unoriginal and stereotypical. All the characters in this family were bitter and petty in a way I just found infuriating rather than sympathetic or amusing. Also by the end the broken English was really grating o This peaked at the quirky title. Any of the jokes that were vaguely amusing at the start of the quickly lost their charm as they were repeated again and again throughout. None of the characters or themes were developed in any meaningful way, and most of the attempts of humour felt cheap, unoriginal and stereotypical. All the characters in this family were bitter and petty in a way I just found infuriating rather than sympathetic or amusing. Also by the end the broken English was really grating on my nerves. Perhaps if you find it funny when non-native speakers make mistakes in English this would appeal to you more. For me it just fell flat.

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