qatsi (qatsi) wrote,

Book Review: A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, by Marina Lewycka
Widower Nikolai, who fled Ukraine during the second World War and settled in Britain, has found love again - with a woman fifty years his junior who, it just so happens, is working while visiting the UK on a tourist visa. Nadezhda, one of his daughters, is the narrator of the novel. She's liberal, but finds herself quickly driven into the hands of the Daily Mail set (including her elder sister) by the avarice and abuse of her father's new wife.

The story is amusing, though the characters are caricatures that often make you wince. Plot twists are few, and one of the deeper purposes of the book is to explore the sisters' difficult relationship and their family history. However this is generally submerged beneath the immigration question very much in the present. Cooking with Fernet Branca tackled the different perspectives of the characters by assigning parallel narrations, and this approach might have worked effectively here. As written, it's impossible to have any real sympathy for Valentina, a very stereotypical Easterner with very stereotypical views of life in the West. There are hints that there might be more to the reasons she has come to Britain, but they are too late in the book and even then, very oblique. It's a funny book, but its one-sidedness could be simplistically interpreted to fan the flames in the wrong hands.
Tags: books
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