Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, Marina Lewycka

Despite the title, there's much more to this novel than tractors.  It's really more of a fable about a family coming to a realization that the past, namely their history as immigrants from the Ukraine, never really goes away.  It begins with the death of the mother, a thrifty and conscientious woman with two bickering daughters.  Their previously eccentric father, an inventor of sorts, becomes increasingly unbalanced and ends up marrying a blonde bombshell from Ukraine, fifty years his junior. 

The storyline goes as you would expect it, and there are no real surprises.  The underlying theme of identity is emphasized with tragic and comic stories from their childhood.  At points it becomes a slapstick comedy of the strangest proportions with the lovesick old man and his embarrassed daughters.  Things seem to resolve a little easier than would be predicted, but with a fable they usually do.

This is a fast paced and witty read.  I didn't find myself particularly drawn to any of the characters, and much was left simmering at the surface without real depth.  To really enjoy this, I'd suggest having a map of Europe at hand, because much is made of locations and journeys.


  1. hmm, i've hummed and haarred about wether to read this or not, most reviews are pretty lukewarm, might wait to see if i can pick up a cheap second hand copy.

  2. also, thanks for the tip about thrity umrigar, just put her on my tbr list!