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A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian Paperback – 2 Mar 2006

386 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; Open market ed edition (2 Mar. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014102576X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141025766
  • Product Dimensions: 11.3 x 2.3 x 24.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (386 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 531,099 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


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.

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Inside This Book

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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

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

86 of 88 people found the following review helpful By Lonya TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 28 Mar. 2005
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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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Georgie on 18 April 2006
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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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A. Dean on 30 April 2006
Format: Paperback
Although not an all out comedy by any means, I found the story to be frequently laugh out-loud funny. There is an insightful, quietly snide tone to much of the conversations (of which there are many), which I found a joy. I would dip into this book each day on the way into work, and it was much like sitting near a gossipy pair of female friends, moaning and cursing over an idiot friend. A guilty pleasure to eavesdrop in on the latest happenings.

A very easy, comfortable book to read - the review elsewhere that suggests this book may lead to outbreaks of racial violence is frankly ludicrous, utterly ridiculous on every level - I would recommend this to anyone who can appreciate real-life farce. The occasional paragraph or two on tractors seems to have no real relation to the story, but does make for interesting, nicely bemusing shadowing to the main story.

The only flaw I have to mention is that the story is rather anti-climactic, and seems to run out of steam at some point towards the end. Until then however I had a most joyful experience reading this.
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56 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER on 29 Dec. 2006
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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