A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian

by Marina Lewycka

Thursday, December 20, 2007

I liked the idea of reading a book with such a bizarre title but wasn’t at all sure what kind of book it was going to be. Nadezhda narrates the story of her eighty-something widowed father Nikolai, who came to Britain escaping from the Soviet Union after the second world war, marrying a thirty-something Valentina in order that Valentina can gain a British passport. She and her elder sister Vera try to help him out of the mess he’s got himself into, though he’s not always on their side.

The story could have been a bleak tale of asylum seeking and the horrors of the cold war, but - as the quirky title suggests - it’s very funny in places. Some of the characters, particularly busty blonde Valentina, seemed a bit two dimensional at times but the story wouldn’t have worked so well if you hadn’t have been able to see a real person underneath the stereotype.

Enjoyable stuff.