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.