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A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian (2005)

by Marina Lewycka

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,2392271,492 (3.39)413
For years, Nadezhda and Vera have had as little as possible to do with each other. But now they find they'd better learn how to get along, because since their mother's death their ageing father has been sliding into his second childhood, and an alarming new woman has just entered his life.
  1. 20
    Moonlight in Odessa by Janet Skeslien Charles (norabelle414)
    norabelle414: These books could possibly be the same story from different points of view. They're both very entertaining stories, and contain just the right amount of history and culture of Ukraine.
  2. 21
    Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer (BillPilgrim)
  3. 01
    And Quiet Flows the Don by Mikhail Sholokhov (PilgrimJess)
    PilgrimJess: Gives a far better insight into Ukrainian history if that is what you are looking for.

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» See also 413 mentions

English (203)  German (6)  Dutch (5)  Norwegian (3)  Catalan (3)  French (2)  Swedish (2)  Spanish (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (226)
Showing 1-5 of 203 (next | show all)
This is a tender and funny story.A great read.
  rosiezbanks | Dec 4, 2020 |
This book was short-listed for the Orange Prize, and long-listed for the Booker in 2005. It's a fun, comic novel.

Our narrator, Nadezhda's father, a Ukrainian immigrant in England, meets and marries a much younger Ukrainian woman, who appears to be a floozy and a gold digger. Nadezhda and her sister Vera are barely speaking, but they join forces to protect their father. The book story is told with lots of humor, but I also learned a lot about the Ukraine and Russia, and also tractors. ( )
  banjo123 | Nov 30, 2020 |
I really adored this book and found it difficult to put down. She did a remarkable job with capturing the Ukrainian voice, not just in dialogue but in capturing the essence of humor, values, and trauma from World War II. The architecture of the story is really minimal, yet complex. It is told in pieces across various conversations and memories. Some chapters are just conversations, the story playing out in conversations about the action. I laughed out loud and was moved to tears over and over again. The relationship between the sisters was especially poignant-both having experienced trauma, but the older one actually remembering it, and the rift that causes between them. Just splendidly done. ( )
  Oleacae | Oct 24, 2020 |
Quirky, touching and thoroughly enjoyable. So many moments where I related it back to my own family and their "strange" habits. Must be a Ukrainian thing. ( )
  MandaTheStrange | Oct 7, 2020 |
I bought A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian from a charity shop because the title made me smile. It’s an easy to read story with humorous characters who exhibit a down to earth display of real people. The story is unpredictable, with twists and turns that keep you gripped to the next page. I read it in a single day sat on the train.

The writing style is easy to follow, the only places I skipped ahead were the non-fiction parts about tractors littered throughout the story. I enjoyed how the multiple storylines mingled together giving depth to each of the characters individually. The context of the story was educational and eye opening for me, whilst still being familiar and believable. The story came across as well planned, each part added to the plot and the development of the characters whilst keeping a relaxed, enjoyable pace.

Light-hearted, humorous book well worth a read. ( )
  Happenence | Oct 2, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 203 (next | show all)
This is an odd one. Two years after the death of her mother, Nadezhda Lewis’s father, Nikolai Mayevskyj, a British resident and 1945 refugee from Ukraine, takes up with Valentina, a much more recent - and much younger - Ukrainian with a young son. The book recounts the unfolding of this relationship, through marriage and subsequent divorce proceedings and the reconciliation it brings about between Nadezhda and her older sister, Vera, who had become estranged following shenanigans involving their mother’s will. Nikolai is also writing the eponymous “Short History Of Tractors In Ukrainian” extracts from which are doled out throughout the book.

This is all treated in a knockabout style and the characters are well delineated. In contrast to the humorous aspects there is also Mayevskyj family backstory from Ukraine which is much more sombre. Nikolai and his wife lived through Stalin’s farm collectivisations (and famines) of the 1920s and 30s plus the German invasion of World War 2. The main thrust of the novel, though, is really about Nadezhda’s lack of intimate knowledge of this past and Vera’s insistence that things belong there, not to be dredged up.

Some infelicities: the marriage takes place in a Catholic church even though Valentina is divorced (but the priest may not know) and Peterborough (United) are playing at home but appear on the big screen on a pub TV. This latter is unlikely I would think - even if they did reach the Championship.

Lewycka makes great play of the traumatic past of the Majevskyj family but to my mind there was a whiff of “something nasty in the woodshed” about her treatment of it.

A Short History Of Tractors In Ukrainian is entertaining but ultimately strives for more than it delivers.
The younger sister, Nadezhda, reminisces about Ukraine and ponders the country's history. She dwells on well-known tragic events: the famine, Nazi occupation, Stalin's purges, Babi Yar. The hard realism of these images is in stark contrast with the grotesque main plot. Reading this novel gave me the impression that I had read a school textbook on Ukrainian history with one eye on an episode of Coronation Street.
added by KayCliff | editThe Guardian, Andrey Kurkov (Mar 19, 2005)
More than just a jovial farce about assimilation, A Short History Of Tractors in Ukrainian is spliced with family anecdotes and memories of the motherland. Nadezhda remembers her mother's salty vegetable soup and her father's prize-winning eulogy to a hydro-electric power station. More significantly, elder sister Vera comes clean about the family's wartime past, including time spent in a German labour camp.

Despite Lewycka's robust writing, the will-she-won't-she-stay element of Valentina's story is hard to sustain. The family ends up in court, but the outcome is predictable.
added by KayCliff | editThe Independent, Emma Hagestadt (Mar 16, 2005)
Predictable and sometimes repetitive hilarity ensues. But then Lewycka's comic narrative changes tone. Nadezhda, who has never known much about her parents' history, pieces it together with her sister and learns that there is more to her cartoonish father than she once believed. "I had thought this story was going to be a knockabout farce, but now I see it is developing into a knockabout tragedy," Nadezhda says at one point, and though she is referring to Valentina, she might also be describing this unusual and poignant novel.
added by KayCliff | editPublishers Weekly (Mar 7, 2005)

» Add other authors (17 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lewycka, Marinaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hartenstein, ElfieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kooreman, MarjaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
SitaraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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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.
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For years, Nadezhda and Vera have had as little as possible to do with each other. But now they find they'd better learn how to get along, because since their mother's death their ageing father has been sliding into his second childhood, and an alarming new woman has just entered his life.

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Aus der Amazon.de-Redaktion

Das Übel trägt einen Namen: Valentina! -- Seit die vollbusige, wasserstoffblonde Ukrainerin in Vater Nikolais Leben trat, schwebt der 84-Jährige Witwer im siebten Testosteron-Himmel. Der Alte verfasst selbstgefertigte Gedichte, lässt die Wohnung vergammeln und trägt Spendierhosen in Übergröße. Lediglich die „Hydraulik“ gewisser Körperpartien bereitet ihm Kummer. Was Wunder, zählt die Angebetete gerade mal süße sechsunddreißig. Nikolais verfeindete Töchter Vera und Nadeshda (die Ich-Erzählerin des Romans), riechen den Braten der Scheinehe zum Zwecke der Einbürgerung und beginnen sich ums väterliche Erbe zu sorgen.

Man lasse sich nicht blenden von dem an sozialistische Plakatkunst erinnernden Coverdesign, das eine ukrainisch-britische Immigrantenburleske erwarten lässt. Unter dem Komödienton schlummern dramatische Elemente und eine Familiengeschichte, die manches Lachen verstummen lässt. Die gebürtige Ukrainerin und heute in England lebende Marina Lewycka streut in ihre Kampfhandlungen zweier Schwestern gegen die „böse Stiefmutter“ immer wieder historische Einsprengsel, so die Verfolgung ihrer Familie durch Stalin und dessen gezielt herbeigeführte Hungersnot, die die Ukraine unterwerfen sollte und Millionen Tote forderte. Am Beispiel der gierigen Valentina werden auch die dubiosen Glücksverheißungen des Westens offenbar -- exemplarisch hierfür, die Busenvergrößerung, die der spendable Altbräutigam als Einstandsgeschenk springen lässt. Doch die Wunschliste der toughen Braut war noch lang!

Vera und Nadeshda, diese Hochgebildeten, scheinen ihre radebrechende Meisterin in Pink, Mini und Kunstpelz gefunden zu haben. Der völlig desillusionierte Vater steht vorm Ruin, am frisch gelieferten Busen laben sich andere, und alle Pläne, die Ehe für ungültig zu erklären, scheitern an der Tücke Valentinas und der Trägheit britischer Behörden. Trost findet der gehörnte Nikolai nur in seinem Lebensprojekt, der „Geschichte des Traktors auf Ukrainisch“, einer klugen und traurigen Reflexion über die beginnende Industrialisierung und den Verlust der eigenen Scholle.

Doch auch seine Töchter waren nicht untätig. Beim Durchstöbern des Elternhauses nach belastendem Valentina-Material tauchen brisante Dokumente auf, die die gesamte Familiengeschichte schlagartig ins Wanken bringen. Valentinas ultimatives Gastgeschenk -- von Marina Lewycka charmant und mit leichter Hand zu Papier gebracht -- und völlig zu Recht nominiert für den renommierten Booker Prize. --Ravi Unger


Vater steht auf Traktoren und Titten - ersteres manifestiert sich in seiner Arbeit an einem Trecker-Buch, zweiteres in seiner neuen Frau Valentina. Die ist 48 Jahre jünger als er, hat einen enormen Vorbau und kommt aus der Ukraine. Den Töchtern Vera und Nadeshda ist klar: Die Schlampe ist auf Papas Geld und ein Visum scharf! Um dagegen anzugehen, beerdigen die zwei ihren eigenen Streit und setzen alles daran, das britisch-ukrainische Eheglück zu zerstören. Überraschend enterte Marina Lewyckas Debütroman im letzten Jahr die Bestsellerlisten - vor allem die elegante Mischung aus Familiengeschichte, klischeehafter Lovestory und Immigrantendrama gefiel. In dieser Hörspielbearbeitung von Claudia Kattanek geht der Mix leider flöten. Reduziert auf eine Länge von 60 Minuten, bleibt von Lewyckas Geschichte vor allem der klischeebeladene Teil übrig - durch die Wahl der Sprecher (Jeanette Spassova lässt Valentina wie ein billiges Luder klingen) wird das sogar noch verstärkt. Gelungen ist allerdings die musikalische Untermalung der Geschichte. Dynamisch teilt sie in Sinnabschnitte und unterstützt so die Dramaturgie. (jul) kulturnews.de

Two years after my mother died, my father fell in love with a glamourous blonde 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 a sludge of sloughed-off memories, giving the family ghosts a kick up the backside.'

Sisters Vera and Nadezhda must put aside a lifetime of feuding to save their émigré engineer father from voluptuous gold-digger Valentina. With her proclivity for green satin underwear and boil-in-the-bag cuisine, she will stop at nothing in her pursuit of Western wealth.

But the sisters' campaign to oust Valentina unearths family secrets, uncovers fifty years of Europe's darkest history and sends them back to roots they'd much rather forget.
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