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A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian [Paperback]

Marina Lewycka
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (334 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 Mar 2006

'Two years after my mother died, my father fell in love with a glamourous blonde Ukrainian divorcee. He was eighty-four and she was thirty-six. She exploded into our lives like a fluffy pink grenade, churning up the murky water, bringing to the surface a sludge of sloughed-off memories, giving the family ghosts a kick up the backside.'

Sisters Vera and Nadezhda must put aside a lifetime of feuding to save their émigré engineer father from voluptuous gold-digger Valentina. With her proclivity for green satin underwear and boil-in-the-bag cuisine, she will stop at nothing in her pursuit of Western wealth.

But the sisters' campaign to oust Valentina unearths family secrets, uncovers fifty years of Europe's darkest history and sends them back to roots they'd much rather forget...


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Product details

  • Paperback: 326 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; 1st Penguin Edition edition (2 Mar 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141020520
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141020525
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.7 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (334 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 131,297 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Marina Lewycka was born in Kiel, Germany, after the war, and moved to England with her family when she was about a year old. Her first novel, A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, has sold more than a million copies in the UK alone and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize, longlisted for the Man Booker and won the Bollinger Everyman Prize for Comic Fiction and the Waverton Good Read Award. Her second novel, Two Caravans, was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, Two Caravans and Marina's third and fourth novels, We Are All Made of Glue and Various Pets Alive and Dead are all available in Penguin. Marina Lewycka lives in Sheffield.


Product Description

Review

More than just a jolly romp with political undertones is the way it captures the peculiar flavour of Eastern European immigrant life . . . a very rich mixture indeed, as well as very enjoyable reading (The Times)

A delightful first novel . . . an understanding of history, a profundity, and yet a lightness of touch, that are a joy . . . funny, touching and completely convincing (The Spectator) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

Winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize and shortlisted for The Orange Prize for Fiction 2005. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Two years after my mother died, my ferner fell in love with a glamorous blonde Ukrainian divorcée. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
79 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, Entertaining Debut Novel 28 Mar 2005
By Leonard Fleisig TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
I picked up Marina Lewycka's "A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian" almost by accident. The title attracted my attention so I picked it up and began reading. After reading the first three sentences, I was sold. They are: "Two years after my mother died, my father fell in love with a glamorous blond Ukrainian divorcee. He was eighty-four and she was thirty-six. She exploded into our lives like a fluffy pink grenade, churning up the murky water, bringing to the surface sludge of sloughed-off memories, giving the family ghosts a kick up the backside." The concern I have with books that begin so well is the difficulty the remainder has in living up to such promise. I am happy to report that Ukrainian Tractors lived up to the promise of its opening paragraph.
The opening sentences sum up the story. Nikolai, his wife and two children Vera and Nadezhda (Nadia) were Ukrainian refugees who, at the conclusion of the Second World War make their way to Peterborough. Vera,born before the war, has memories of the family's travails in German work camps. She is the "war baby." Vera is the basic domineering know-it-all older sister. Nadia is the peace baby, a liberal sociology lecturer with a penchant for buying her clothes used at the local Oxfam. Nadia and Vera have not talked since their mother's funeral. Nikolai picks up he phone one day and announces to Nadia that he is about to take a new bride. Valentina is a young, buxom bottle-blonde Ukrainian whose U.K. residency visa is about to expire. As expected, Vera and Nadia call a truce in order to prevent the marriage and protect their father from a fate they consider worse than death.
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49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing in many ways 29 Dec 2006
By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
This book has won an award for comic fiction; but, richly comic though the writing is, the story is for the most part essentially a tragic one. I am reminded of Horace Walpole's dictum, `This world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel.' Nikolai, an 84-year old Ukrainian-born widower who has lived in England since 1946 as an escapee from Stalinist Russia, marries a much more recent immigrant from the now independent Ukraine: Valentina, 36 years old, who is here on a visitor's visa and marries him only to be allowed permanent residence and to gain access to his money and his house. She exploits and bullies the poor and near senile old man mercilessly. His two daughters, Vera and Nadia, are outraged. They have fought with each other all their lives, and they still do; but they make common cause to try to rescue their father and what might be left of their inheritance. In the course of the story we are given glimpses of the history of Ukraine, the terrible sufferings of the civil war, the terror and the famine of the Stalin years, the Second World War, a labour camp; also of the development of tractors - those symbols of the collective farms, of which the old man, a former engineer, is writing a history. Towards the end, the book becomes a near farce, and then modulates into a happier ending than we had any reason to expect. We are even allowed for a moment to see the monstrous gold-digger as herself a victim, too. The descriptions of the individuals and the relationships between them is excellent, the somewhat fractured English spoken by the old man and the even more primitive but expressive mauling of it by Valentina is spot-on. A memorable book.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pleasant, if not spectacular 5 May 2006
Format:Paperback
The gimmicky title and the good reviews were the reasons that I decided to read this book, and I was surprised by what I found. At its heart, this book is about: the struggle to find your place within your family; how much our family history affects and influences us in the present and how you can begin to doubt your political opinions when they become issues in your own life. I wouldn't have said that this book was 'laugh out loud funny', although it did raise a wry smile every now and then. And it did make me reflect on my own family history and the issues of immigration raised within the book. Overall, this is no literary masterpiece, but it's a pleasant commuter read.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read 18 April 2006
By Georgie
Format:Paperback
The deceptively light tone has baffled some reviewers into believing this is not a good book, but if you look at what it actually tells you about the famine and war in Ukraine, you'll find the whole of human tragedy is there. If you prefer to feel like you're reading an annotated text book then perhaps this is not for you. This is how Eastern Europeans deal with the deep betrayals they have dealt with in living memory - cry about it, laugh about it, grow some vegetables and get on with it. This, I assume, is why the author has chosen to deal with the topic in this faux-comic way. It's a lovely, touching read with well-realised characters.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny and sometimes very moving 9 April 2006
By Dolph
Format:Paperback
Don't think one of the previous reviewers quite got the point of this book. I think anyone wanting an in depth history of tractors or the history of the Ukraine will probably look elsewhere.
I read this around the swimming pool one day and it kept making me laugh. Towards the end it changes to a slightly more serious story but finishes with a very touching life affirming note.
Buy it yourself and you decide.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars What a good book
I was recommended this by a couple of my reading group. It is not something I would ever have picked up, but it was a fun read. I have to say that some of it was a bit slow, i.e. Read more
Published 3 days ago by Helen
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious and informing in equal parts
Lewycka paints a vivid picture of the English, Ukrainian-English and Ukrainians whilst providing an utterly hilarious but real account of family relationships.
Published 6 days ago by Dave S
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved It, But It's Not A Comedy
I greatly enjoyed it, but I didn't find it to be a comedy, not even a black comedy. Eastern Europeans do have a very alien, bleak sense of humour that I don't get, and maybe that's... Read more
Published 11 days ago by Arachne202
5.0 out of 5 stars GOOD BOOK
really enjoyed this book got the lot for a relaxing read very original idea lots of laughs with undertones could almost be true
Published 1 month ago by DUSTEAR
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book
This is an incredibly good book and is an interesting subject! Just read and you will be absorbed in it.
Published 2 months ago by Mrs. Marilyn J. Hunt
5.0 out of 5 stars Will read it again and again
Excellent book-funny-sad and enlightening all at the same time-a thoroughly good read-I have recommended it to all of my book friends
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars A worthwhile story
Just from reading the opening chapter, I got captivated like never before. Reading it further captivated me even more and the end of the book proved that it is an amazing story. Read more
Published 2 months ago by John T C
3.0 out of 5 stars Sister's story
I found this an interesting account of how war has far-reaching effects on the lives of two girls born to parents at various stages of a conflict.
Published 3 months ago by N.Holmes
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, informative, funny, tragic, brilliant
This book is a delight - was over too soon, Sian Thomas- narrator reads and expresses it all so well. Read more
Published 4 months ago by K. L. Miles
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't give up from this deeper meaning novel...
When I read the book from which I expect a lot and get a little, I fell in a strange state of semiconscious in which I'm trying to figure out whether it's somewhere in those few... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Denis Vukosav
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