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A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian [Hardcover]

Marina Lewycka
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (343 customer reviews)
RRP: £12.99
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Book Description

3 Mar 2005
For years, Nadezhda and Vera, two Ukrainian sisters, raised in England by their refugee parents, have had as little as possible to do with each other - and they have their reasons. But now they find they'd better learn how to get along, because since their mother's death their aging father has been sliding into his second childhood, and an alarming new woman has just entered his life. Valentina, a bosomy young synthetic blonde from the Ukraine, seems to think their father is much richer than he is, and she is keen that he leave this world with as little money to his name as possible. If Nadazhda and Vera don't stop her, no one will. But separating their addled and annoyingly lecherous dad from his new love will prove to be no easy feat - Valentina is a ruthless pro and the two sisters swiftly realize that they are mere amateurs when it comes to ruthlessness. As Hurricane Valentina turns the family house upside down, old secrets come falling out, including the most deeply buried one of them all, from the War, the one that explains much about why Nadazhda and Vera are so different. In the meantime, oblivious to it all, their father carries on with the great work of his dotage, a grand history of the tractor.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; First Edition edition (3 Mar 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670915602
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670915606
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 14.2 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (343 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 352,255 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 the 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.

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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

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
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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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pleasant, if not spectacular 5 May 2006
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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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read 18 April 2006
By Georgie
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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50 of 53 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
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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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
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
4.0 out of 5 stars A fun read with a happy ending.
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian is the first novel by British/Ukrainian author, Marina Lewycka. Read more
Published 6 days ago by Cloggie Downunder
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant. So easy to read and so funny Really ...
Brilliant. So easy to read and so funny Really touching without being too sentimental.
Published 26 days ago by Keith Wileman
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
great humour
Published 1 month ago by Niels Holleriis-Lassen
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Wasn't as funny as I thought it was going to be.
Would not recommend.
Published 1 month ago by alex
5.0 out of 5 stars I W ant to drive to drive a tractor!!!!
A good read comedy in most chapters
Published 1 month ago by TonyGS
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Good book easy to read funny and silly. Title attracts much attention
Published 1 month ago by Jan underwoos
5.0 out of 5 stars A light hearted and very humerous read.
I first read Two Caravans by Marina Lewycka and loved the story of migrant workers from Eastern Europe and the intrigues they were caught up in. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mr. John A. Moriarty
5.0 out of 5 stars Reader from Yorkshire
I saw Marina Lewycka at a Literary Festival - the talk she gave was interesting. This book was mentioned and a friend of mine had already read and enjoyed it. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Brenda Robson
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Funny
Had been lent one of her previous books to read so decided to purchase this one. Not quite as good as the previous one but still very funny!
Published 4 months ago by avid traveller
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 4 months ago by Helen
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