Shop now Shop now Shop now  Up to 50% Off Fashion  Shop all Amazon Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Learn more Shop now Shop now

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars117
3.9 out of 5 stars
Format: Paperback|Change
Price:£8.99+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

on 21 June 2014
I was one of the original fans of A Short History of Tractors, a definite 5-star comic read written with affection and sharp observation. I've enjoyed the subsequent novels too, though perhaps none so much as the first. Four stars for some, with maybe a 3 in there.

This one, however, is a dud. For a more insightful take on communal living and its fallout, try Ewan Morrison's Close Your Eyes, which makes this book look ludicrously sentimental and superficial - even allowing for the fact that it's intended as a light comedy. I really didn't believe the relationships within the family members and their fellow communards and exes. They came over as trite, and the characters hugely simplified stereotypes.

Shame, because I really looked forward to the combination of ML's humour and wit brought to a subject I always find interesting. Until this time!
0Comment|One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 4 August 2014
Absolute disappointment - liked her other books. Quirky? Yes. Flowing? No. Believable? No. When would an old pensioner gent, waiting in a queue and anxious to be served, listening to woman talking to the shop assistant, suggest they might like to try lesbianism? The attempt to link together events in a slapstick fashion where, e.g. someone trips on a banana skin, puts their foot in a shopping basket and falls into a cascading mound of baked bean cans (I made this up) is silly and taking the reader for a fool if she thinks it's funny. I read the whole book and the ending was no less disappointing. I was waiting for some sort of conclusion but it was weak and just finished this awful book for me in the same boring and dull manner experienced during the wasted hours of reading it. Give it a miss, don't waste your precious time.
0Comment|One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 16 October 2014
Generally enjoyed this book,but I did find the last few chapters rather silly, and not quite believable compared to the rest of the novel. I found the City characters quite believable, and could well imagine Chicken running a financial organisation such as FACTA.I think the revolutionary background of the 1970's/80's works quite well, and you often wonder how people who liked the dea of share communities etc,adapt to later adult life, and Marina Lewycka states what happens as a possible scenario very well the charactus of Marcus and Dora work very well.I certainly feel that Marina Lewycka should be taken as a good novelist who has the ability to tell a good story, and add in the realism of life in the Sheffield/Doncaster area.Well worth reading.
0Comment|One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 6 April 2013
Very enjoyable, well written book by this engaging author. I found it to be a real page turner, as all her books are. Cannot praise this & all her books highly enough. If you haven't tried this author you really are missing out. Don't be put off by obscure titles they add to the intrigue.
0Comment|2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 12 September 2013
I enjoyed the first half of this, I wanted it to end well, but it was like the author just got bored with it and couldn't be bothered. Serge in particular is like a half drawn character. What are the blackouts about? I felt it was leading to some animal mass murdering revelation and then its oh by the way he lived happily ever after! And what was the significance of the fires. I also found the characterisation of someone with Downs Syndrome, in the person of Oolie, quite offensive. Adults with Downs are as unlikely to have filthy hands or to pick their noses whilst baking as anyone else.
All in all very irritating. I expect more when I invest my time in a book.
0Comment|One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 23 March 2013
The author has managed to pull off another reasonably accomplished book, combining a good intuitive understanding of humanity, with a relatively wry sense of humor. The story revolves around Serge, a City quant, Maroushka, a female Ukrainian colleague whom he has a crush on, Serge's parents Doro and Marcus and his sister Clara. Given that his past lies in a Doncaster commune, where his parents were attempting to change the world and their children from the 70s to the 90s, revealing his current banking job is completely unthinkable, neither to his parents, nor to his schoolteacher sister.

The book covers the financial crisis of 2008 as well as it handles the endless splits and schisms in the UKs extreme left of the decades past. While the author manages to convey a fairly OK picture of both, she will not come across as as natural and funny in describing the banking environment as someone like Po Bronson in Bombardiers or David Charters in At Bonus Time, No-one Can Hear You Scream. Be that as it may, both banking and Doncaster are just a stage for the comical conflicts to play out and as such not of primary importance.

And conflicts and misunderstandings there are aplenty, most of which are pretty good fun. The book is a very easy read and will certainly produce the odd laugh; the chapter length and the fairly straightforward story also help if you are reading the book during a commute, or in bite sized chunks before going to bed.

Overall a good relaxing read and if you liked the author's other books (such as A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian) you are unlikely to go wrong with this one, either.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 3 February 2014
I'm a great fan of ML and this is well up to standard at the same time as being quite different from each of her others. Laugh out loud, yes, but with keen insights into the seductive, addictive nature of City gambling and how it gambles away huge chunks of all our lives. The Marxists are wonderfully and intimately portrayed, with their learning disabled, truth-telling daughter the heroine of many scenes. Skilfully plotted, warm of heart - first rate.
0Comment|One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 8 May 2013
Another largely enjoyable book from Marina Lewycka - light and entertaining but enough plot to keep you reading. Doro and Marcus brought up their children Clara, Serge and Oolie in a commune where free love, political protest and shared parenting prevailed. Nearly twenty years after the commune's abrupt end, the family still aren't being quite honest with each other about the past or their present lives.
Told, alternately from the each character's point of view, the story moves between Doro's beloved allotment, Clara's life as a primary school teacher and Serge's secret job as a City trader during the financial crisis. This switching of perspectives kept me engaged as the book was in danger of becoming a bit rambling at times.
Nevertheless, a good-hearted fun read with some trademark Lewycka slapstick set pieces which made me smile but not laugh out loud. The author has something to say about family relationships but she touches on bigger themes like our attitude to money and material goods. Like her other books, appeals to women and men - my husband read it after me.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 29 November 2015
When The Short History of Tractors in Ukraine was published, a lot of people like myself thought here was another Stella Gibbons with Cold Comfort Farm. A one-trick pony. Not so at all, and this lovely author goes from strength to strangth, and Various Pets is her best yet. Other reviewers will tell you the plot (why?) - all I need say is said. Well done Marina.
0Comment|One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
I finished this last night and can't quite decide what I think of it. I have read both 'A short history of Tractors ..' and ' the Caravans book . I quite enjoyed the quirkiness of 'Tractors' but was less keen on 'the ' Two Caravans' one as I felt it was rather too unrealistic.

This book annoyed me to begin with as the characters had stupid names Doro and Oolie Anna to name just two. I am probably being too critical but things like that, twee names just rub me up the wrong way.

I persevered though and at times I quite enjoyed the humour and poking fun at the politics and financial world during the banking crisis.

It was a bit of an eye opener to read about just how much the world of business is manipulated by the banking world. Quite scary in fact I know it is a work of fiction but the author obviously did a lot of research as she thanks specific people at the end of the book.

It was nice to have a person with Down's Syndrome written about in a positive way , in fact two in the book but one was a main character and in a gentle and humorous way the author does highlight the difficulties faced by a family when making life decisions for these vulnerable adults.

I think what I find a bit frustrating about this book is that nothing actually moves forward as a story. It is more a look at the lives of one family and those that they have touched throughout their lives. I want to know what happens to the characters. Does Serge keep his ill gotten gains or does he go back to just being a poor PHD student.

It is all a bit vague and fluffy . the story jumped around from past to present through flash backs of the different characters. We follow all the three children of the main two characters Doro and Marcus, Serge who they believe is doing his PHD is actually working for big money in banking in London, Clara is a teacher in a challenging school and Oolie Anna the Child with Down's is still living at home but wants a flat of her own in a sheltered housing complex.

In a way ends are tied up and during the book rather too many coincidences happen but I think that is part of the author's style. She writes in a slightly tongue in cheek way and has a dry sense of humour.

Serge is doing very well in baking and rather fancies a young girl, Maroushka from Eastern Europe and being of Eastern European descent Lewcka catches the accent really well and describes the young girl perfectly so you really feel you can see her.

I think this is a book to read with an open mind. Go with the flow and where the author takes you. You cannot read it expecting a story that follows through and tells a classic story that has a satisfactory 'happy ever after' ending so in that way it is kind of like real life.

The characters are larger than life really. they are caricatures of those they represent so in that way they are believable yet also amusing so you can't take them seriously.

I think on balance it was quite an enjoyable read. The title somewhat baffles me as although some pets are mentioned , really they are only one side story.

This is the kind of story that would translate into a good film as their is not really a traditional story, it is a more of a character study set in the time frame of my life.I would think I was much the same age as the parents, Doro and Marcus and the children around the same age as mine.

I never joined in the commune life style but i was not really greatly into politics but I do remember the miner's strike ( who doesn't?) and that commune and alternative living was big at that time.

The banking crisis is still being felt and so this book is pretty much current and up to date so that gives it more of a feeling that you are looking at a family today, more like chatting to a friend and picking up glimpses of things happening in their children's lives just as you might in real life.

If you enjoyed her previous two books then give this a try. Don't expect a deep meaningful book. It is a modern tale told with wit , observation and a lot of tongue in cheek humour.
0Comment|4 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

Customers also viewed these items

£8.99

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.