A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian

by Marina Lewycka

Rating: ***

I read this book fairly swiftly and it was perfectly readable. Well-observed and mildly humorous in places although the character of Valentina I found a total writing by numbers stereotype. The cover reviews state 'outstanding' and 'extremely funny' - unfortunately, I cannot stretch to that. The character of the aged father, I simply couldn't quite visualise and his later years (although we all become shadows of ourselves) simply didn't tally with the younger, brutal flashbacks. The character of Mike was poorly developed to the point I actually couldn't see the point of him. Vera, was one-dimensional and even Nadia, just didn't seem to be fully realised. As a story about a silly old man getting conned by a buxom Ukrainian, it jogged along but the side narrative and flashbacks just didn't seem to meld with the main thrust of the book; it was like two different stories. The zoning in and out of the 'funny' story with the bleak backstory, for me, did not work. The passages regarding the history of tractors became laboured and over-long and I did skim a couple. The ending just was not there for me either. However, as I say I polished this off in a few days on holiday and at the time, quite enjoyed it, so if you are round a pool and fancy an easy, light read, then pick it up.


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