Marina Lewycka - A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian.


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.

Surprisingly, I loved this book.

It's not my usual type of book. And I wouldn't go as far to say "Mad & Hilarious" as the Daily Telegraph has proclaimed.

But it was fun. And also a little close to home.

The sisters relationship seemed to almost mirror mine & my sisters - although ours is not as fragmented as theirs :). The story of their father and his new relationship is also similar to that of our father's and his relationship with his partner. Although, in all fairness to my father's partner - she isn't very similar to Valentina!

The story starts with the father (Nikolai) telling his youngest daughter Nadia about the woman he wants to marry (his wife had died a few years previously). His fiance is from his homeland  - the Ukraine - and needs to get married so she can stay in the country. But first she must get a divorce from her Ukrainian husband.
The story is interspersed with the family history. How the father & mother came to meet (he was Ukrainian & she was Polish). How they managed to escape the concentration camps and came to live in England. And also, while all these backgrounds are being told, and Nikolai is trying desperately to marry, and then divorce, the very voluptious Valentina - he is writing a book titled A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian.

Some of the characters are not likeable at all. Some of them I ended up feeling so sad for. And the book finished a little too early for my liking. I wanted to find out more, but you'll have to read it to understand what I'm talking about. There were a few story lines that could have been followed up, but were left just hanging - although there was really so much going on in the book it would've been quite difficult to add a few more threads into it.

I liked it and will make someone else from bookclub read it next :)

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