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A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka



Book Reviews (Adult)

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka
Published by Viking, 2005

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian is a story about the reaction of two daughters when their elderly father announces he is marrying a much younger Ukrainian immigrant - a voluptuous, synthetic blonde, gold-digger called Valentina. It is told from the perspective of his younger daughter, Nadezhda, who has been estranged from her older sister,Vera, since their mother’s funeral. The two sisters come together against a common enemy and we share their journey from initial hostility, through acceptance and finally to friendship. We also learn about the family’s secret history, which began with their father and mother meeting before the War and the struggles and horrors they faced during it.

We enjoyed this book. The story was well told and the characters were vividly brought to life. At times you could really visualise the person or the situation Lewycka was writing about. There were some real comic moments but perhaps not enough of them. Sometimes we found the father’s readings from the book he was writing about a history of tractors very distracting and at times they made the book a struggle to read. The accounts of the War, especially Poland’s involvement in it, were informative and educational. One of the biggest let downs of the book was the dark secret that was alluded to on a number of occasions - that of Vera and her parents’ time spent in the correction cell of a concentration camp. We really looked forward to hearing about it but it was just skipped over and we were never told what actually happened. It was almost like a cliff-hanger that we never found out the outcome of.

Overall we gave this book 3 out of 5.

Reviewed by An t-Sean Dún Book Club, Ennis.

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