Monday, November 23, 2009

Laura's Review - A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian
Marina Lewycka
294 pages

Oh, puh-leeze. This book annoyed me; let me count the ways.

First, we have two middle-aged sisters, Vera and Nadia, who emigrated from Ukraine to UK as children. They don't get along. And they have much angst about this but seem powerless to change their relationship.

Second, we have their father, Nikolai, an elderly widower also living in the UK. He's lonely and a bit naive. And he's writing a history of tractors, and relates the development of the tractor to other events in history. Actually, Nikolai didn't annoy me. I felt sorry for him. Let's move on.

Third, there's Valentina, a 30-something Ukrainian blond bombshell. She has a young son and very large breasts. Valentina convinces Nikolai to marry her in order to provide legal residency and an education for her son. As I mentioned, Nikolai is lonely and naive. And he likes her breasts. So he agrees.

Back to Vera and Nadia. Their father's marriage causes them even more angst. This, I could understand because Valentina turns out to be after Nikolai's money. And she spends it like there's no tomorrow. But Vera and Nadia? They whine, and talk, and fight with one another. Then they whine, and talk some more. Eventually they do something about the situation.

There were some interesting elements to this book, like gaining some understanding of Ukrainian political events that led to the family's relocation in the 1940s. And there was a great deal of humor in the book, especially the portrayal of Valentina who was really over the top. But almost from the beginning, I felt like I knew where the story would go. And the dynamics between the sisters bored me. When the "big reveal" came, which explained why the two were so different in a way that was supposed to be oh so emotional, it just left me flat. ( )

My original review can be found here.