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A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian by…
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A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian (original 2005; edition 2006)

by Marina Lewycka, Sian Thomas (Narrator)

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4,5892001,046 (3.39)364
This is an amazing story with many subjects in it. Firstly, there are the lives from the 'first' family - two daughters, a mother (already dead) and a father. Their life started in the Ukraine during the second World War. It describes their life there and how they emigrated to England. One daughter was already born then - the war-baby - the other daughter was born in England - the peace-baby. The siblings have difficulties to get around with each other, especially the younger one who doesn't really know the past of her family's life during the war.
Secondly, after their mother's death their father (age 84) has married a young Ukrainian woman. She and her son were coming to England with a lot of hope for a better life. This young woman is asking for a huge amount of financial conditions which the old man isn't able to fulfil.
The old man is asking his daughters for help. Especially the 'peace-baby' is helping him. It's a wonderful description how many difficulties there are when people marry outside their normal habit also when they were originally from the same country. ( )
  Ameise1 | Jul 7, 2012 |
English (179)  German (6)  Dutch (5)  Norwegian (3)  Catalan (3)  Swedish (2)  Danish (1)  French (1)  All languages (200)
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It was great that the GeoCAT pointed me in the direction of this 1001 book. I definitely enjoyed it. It was touching, funny and also somewhat painful at times. It is told from the point of view of the daughter of an elderly Ukrainian widow who has decided to marry a Ukrainian woman 48 years his junior. The daughter joins forces with her sister (this crisis has brought them back together after a two-year estrangement) to try to deal with the ensuing problems. Then name of the book is the name of the book that the Ukrainian widow is writing, and excerpts are included (in fact the entire history of tractors might be in there!). A good read. ( )
  LisaMorr | Apr 22, 2016 |
3.5 stars

And elderly man is swept off his feet by a mid-30s new Ukrainian immigrant--and proceeds to marry her.

His two adult daughters--10 years and a world's view apart--advise against the marriage, and then they must straighten out the mess.

Nadia, the younger sister, learns a lot about her family's lives in Ukraine/Poland/Germany during WWII--before she was born. She gains a bit of understanding for Valentina, who definitely wants dad's money--but also is struggling to make her way after the collapse of communism and the rampant corruption in Ukraine. ( )
  Dreesie | Apr 12, 2016 |
Nadia is upset when her 84 year old widowed father decides to marry Valentina a 36 year old from Ukraine. Nadia must work with her estranged sister to try to get Valentina out of their fathers life. there was a lot of humor involving the father's situation but also some pathos involving their fathers loneliness. I don't really understand why the tractor parts had to be in the book. I found them boring and that they didn't really connect to the rest of the story. ( )
  RachelNF | Apr 2, 2016 |
Couldn't finish it...just got bored with the angst. ( )
  debs913 | Apr 2, 2016 |
This is a heartfelt, fictional account of a Ukrainian family's trials and triumphs in the United Kingdom after WWII. You can see believable, unfolding perspectives of that time through the eyes of two sisters gamely trying to help their loony, elderly father through his self-inflicted predicaments. You can also see glimpses of the haunting times in Ukraine, Germany, Russia and Eastern Europe during the first half of the 20th century. And, amazingly, you are also treated to an earnest and engaging history of the tractor sprinkled as tidbits along the unfolding plot.

I would highly recommend this book which deservedly won a number of British literary awards. ( )
  danhammang | Mar 10, 2016 |
Elderly Nikolai, a widower for two years now, has informed his two grown daughters, Vera and Nadia, that he intends to marry again. Although the women feel disconcerted by their father's news they wonder if companionship in his twilight years might be good for him. Then they meet the bride. Valentina is a buxom blonde in her mid-30's from the Ukraine who has set her sights on what she sees as 'easy pickings' - a slightly addled old gentleman who owns a home and receives a pension. She wants Nikolai to provide for her and her school-aged son and she quickly sets about demanding Western luxuries from her new husband. Vera and Nadia are appalled and want nothing more than to separate their father from this Ukranian gold-digger. This will prove to be an unvelievably difficult task. Nikolai professes love for his bride, and especially her surgically enhanced body, and willingly drains his bank accounts providing private schooling for his new stepson, 3 vehicles for his as-yet unlicensed wife, household appliances and clothes and make-up that somehow only make Valentina look even trashier. Valentina has no problem telling everyone what a mean, stingy man she has married and that he does not satisfy her in any way. Vera and Nadia will stop at nothing to rid their father of this leech of a woman.

This story was surprisingly funny and, at the same time, very touching. Although the focus was on the farce of a marriage and the steps the sisters took against Valentina there was an amazing backstory of Nikolai and his first wife Ludmilla and their struggles during WWII to escape the Ukraine and bring their family to safety in post-war England. I enjoyed the book for the most part but my dislike of Valentina overshadowed it too much. She was a cruel, manipulative witch who eventually became physically abusive to a defeseless old man. The author tried to make the reader feel sympathy for Valentina at times but I just couldn't do it.
( )
  Ellen_R | Jan 15, 2016 |
Well, I guess I didn't find it THAT funny, or witty, or interesting. ( )
  Marse | Aug 26, 2015 |
When their widowed elderly father decides to remarry a valuptuous younger women trying to get her papers to live in England, two estranged sisters band together to protect their father from this gold-digger. Has emotionally poignant and very amusing moments, as well as containing a short history of tractors. It was captivating for a once through read, but probably would not do a reread.
( )
  ChristineEllei | Jul 14, 2015 |
In my eyes a pointless book. Neither entertaining nor enlightening. I have to ask "What's the point?". It says it is funny but I didn't find many funny situations in this book. It was annoying to read about the obvious, how the main character's dad gets drawn into a scam by the Ukrainian lady. All too predictable, no surprise at all. And the author has this "tick" to get lost in endless lists. She describes i.e. over half a page the content of a fridge by listing food after food after food. I usually jumped to the end of the paragraph. Annoying. ( )
  PeterNZ | May 11, 2015 |
Rabck from House-elfdobby, 1001 book. Quirky, british-centric book. As an american reader, I tripped over some of the british idioms & needed a dictionary on hand to know what some of the things were. Base of the book is a gold-digging Ukrainian 30 something tart, who gets her claws into a retired doddering widowed lonely Ukrainian/British engineer. Enter her family and friends, his daughters and the author sets up comedy, painting over top of the atrocities from Pappy's younger years, including things that the older daughter experienced & the family never talks about. In the end, you feel sorry for the gold-digger, and are sobered by the resiliency of the whole family, who suffered before and during WWII. How did they survive intact? ( )
  nancynova | Mar 17, 2015 |
A short fun book. Gave me a few chuckles. Nice. ( )
  jvgravy | Mar 8, 2015 |
1.5 really, good writing, funny from a tragic perspective, but I didn't even finish reading because I was so annoyed with the characters. ( )
  asawyer | Dec 31, 2014 |
Loved this quirky little book! ( )
  frenchmama | Jul 23, 2014 |
What do you get when an octogenarian is intent on wedding a buxomous, gold-digging immigrant, whose romantic intentions are clearly only for the purpose of securing residency via matrimony. Throw in a pair of feuding sisters who have to forge an alliance to deal with the trials and tribulations of an aging parent, and of a marriage gone wrong, and you have a blunt (a little crass, but not obscene), oftimes funny pow-wow that makes for a deliciously delightful read. ( )
  MomsterBookworm | Jul 14, 2014 |
Apa yang akan aku lakukan jika salah seorang orangtuaku berniat menikah lagi seperti Nikolai, ayah si Nadezhda? Apa yang bisa aku perbuat jika orangtua tersebut menikahi seorang yang jauh lebih muda? Apakah keadaan ini akan membuat aku lebih dekat dengan saudara kandungku?



Novel ini sederhana, bercerita tentang kegalauan Nadezhda menghadapi ayahnya yang akan menikah lagi setelah ditinggal ibunya. Dia sangat menentang niat ayahnya dan mencoba bersekutu dengan saudari kandungnya yang juga menjadi musuh besarnya sepeninggal ibunya. Calon istri ayahnya juga jauh lebih muda, dan ketika perempuan tersebut jadi pindah dari Ukraina ke rumah ayahnya di Inggris, niat busuknya tercium juga, walaupun ayahnya tetap membela istri barunya yang seksi itu.

Mengikuti suka duka Nadezhda menghadapi ayahnya yang sudah agak pikun dan bertingkah kekanak-kanakan ini cukup asyik. Cara bercerita penulis sangat kocak, membuat hal-hal pahit menjadi menggelikan. Waktu membaca ini aku jadi bertanya-tanya, apa kalau aku tua nanti aku bisa berubah seperti Nikolai?



Novel ini benar-benar membuat pembacanya bisa tertawa-tawa sendiri, tapi isinya mengenai ikatan kekeluargaan, memberi maaf kepada orang lain, dan berbakti pada orangtua, sangat universal, terutama bagi orang-orang Timur, termasuk Eropa Timur rupanya! Bedanya, orang Asia seperti Indonesia tidak akan punya sense of humor setinggi orang-orang Eropa ini.. Maybe reading this book would change our attitudes? Semoga! ( )
  pwlifter300 | Feb 12, 2014 |
Brilliant black comedy; tragic, funny, sad, lovable and unlovable characters. ( )
  siri51 | Feb 7, 2014 |
Funny, moving, engaging, intriguing — great illustration of generations and cultures (Ukrainian/English — Wartime/Peacetime) colliding ( )
  dreamingbear | Feb 6, 2014 |
I enjoyed reading Marina Lweycka's debut novel "A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian" even though I didn't find any of the characters particularly likeable. The story itself was interesting and the characters were well-drawn so I still found it a fun read.

The story is narrated by Nadia, a Ukrainian immigrant who is not on speaking terms with her sister until their father remarries to Valentina, a much younger woman who is looking for a green card. The daughters reunite in their stand against the woman they view as a gold-digger who is destroying their father's life.

I can see why this book wasn't on the list of 1,001 books to read before you die for long. It isn't a stand-out story, though it was a good read. I would definitely read future books by this author, as I imagine her next books will be even better. ( )
  amerynth | Dec 22, 2013 |
A debut novel by Mariaa Lewycka, published in 2005 was on the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die for a short two years from 2008 to 2010 when it was removed. Ms Lewycka, a British author of Ukrainian descent tells a story of two sisters who are not on speaking terms since their mother’s death. There elderly father’s tangle with an immigrant middle aged woman from Ukrainian brings them back together again as a family. One sister was born in the war; the other was born in peace time. The author, herself, was born in a refugee camp in Germany before the family immigrated to England. What I liked most about the book is the old man. I enjoy and appreciate stories that explore the joys and pains of growing old and this book surely does that. ( )
  Kristelh | Nov 16, 2013 |
This was another one of my 'I really should have read this by now' books, and I'm glad I did.

For the first 100 pages or so, I was surprised that this was a début novel as the prose flowed so well and the story was tight and consistent. After that though, it did begin to flounder and the inexperience showed. Without giving anything away, once Lewycka moves the plot on it tends to get bogged down.
Thankfully, it's a very easy and quick read, so it wasn't a chore to get to the final third's denouement which is both satisfactory and heartfelt.

I would have loved to give it four stars (maybe it is time for Goodreads to implement the half star?), but any faults with this novel certainly would stop me from tracking down any of her subsequent releases.

Great for the garden or the beach or those annoyingly long commutes. ( )
  Kate_Ward | Nov 12, 2013 |
There is an episode in the comedy sitcom Mind Your Language, where Jeremy Brown's motley crew of students drawn from all over the world to learn English tell jokes to pass the time. Juan Cervantes, the Spanish bartender, tells a hilarious joke: at the end, he is in stitches, unable to stifle laughter, because the joke is so funny. The problem is, it is wholly in Spanish, so nobody else in the class can understand.

This novel left me feeling like one of those class members.

This is the story of old Nikolai Mayevskyj (pronounced "Mayevski"), eccentric immigrant engineer from Ukraine who falls in love at the age of eighty-four with a sex-bomb, Valentina, who is thirty-six. Valentina has the only goal of finding domicile for herself and her "genius" son, Stanislav, in the UK: and the recently widowed engineer is an easy target. Nikolai's daughters Vera and Nadehzda (the first-person narrator) are appalled, and set about rescuing their father from this scheming vixen, burying their running feud about their mother's legacy temporarily. In the process, a lot of dirty family laundry is unearthed, a lot of distressing events take place, but true to the tradition of comic literature, things pan out in the end.

If one believes the blurbs on the jacket, the novel is "extremely funny" (The Times), "mad and hilarious" (The Daily Telegraph) and "...a comic feast, a riotous oil painting of senility, lust and greed" (Economist). But I found it to be nothing of the sort. The deliberate comic tone of voice that the author adopted was jarring, in view of the fact that extremely serious matters like the abuse of the elderly was being described. You can't laugh such things off.

Also, there is the matter of portrayal. All the characters were seriously lacking in sympathy: there is hardly a one there the reader will care to identify with. Many of the conversations (especially where a kind of pidgin English was used to parody the Ukrainians' imperfect grasp of the language) were narrated in a tone of mockery - and when an author mocks her own creations, how can the reader take them seriously?

The book Nikolai is writing, A Short History of Tractors in the Ukrainian, is included as a sort of metaphor for the journey (historical, mental and physical) of the East European expatriate engineer, interested only in machines, from the communist East to the capitalist West. Nikolai's reading of excerpts of the book is interspersed with the main narrative throughout the novel, which though informative, failed to meld with the main story. The unspeakable horrors suffered by the family under Stalin and the Nazis somehow fail to make the impact they should, mainly because of the author's insistence on keeping up a comic tone.

However, three stars for a worthwhile story, and a social problem well-presented. But one is forced to think Ms. Lewycka would have created more of an impact if the book was written in dead seriousness. There is nothing more distressing than a joke which falls flat. ( )
1 vote Nandakishore_Varma | Sep 28, 2013 |
This book is funny indeed, even though it has sad parts; also many are infuriating. All in all it's a good, easy and enjoyable read. It's the story of two sisters born in Ukrainia but brought to England very young by their parents right after the war. And it's the story of their father, an 85 year old Ukrainian airplane engineer who worked on a tractor factory in Ukrainia. The story begins with the father,Nikolai, announcing to one of the daughters, Nadya, that he is getting married. His wife of 60 years had just died two years before, and the bride is none other than a 34 year old Ukrainian, who is married with a son, and wants to get married to Nikolai so she can get a British passport. From this point, the story hinges on the two sisters, who incidentally have been fighting between themselves all these years, trying to first stop their father from getting married and, after the wedding, trying to get him separated from the wife Valentina. They succeed in the end, after many funny incidents where many other interesting and shady characters intervene.

Interspersed in the novel are many paragraphs of the history of tractors that Nikolai is writing, in Ukrainian. So, if nothing else, the person who reads this book learns a little about tractors, John Deere, Ferguson, and other tractors that were prominent in Europe during the first half of the 20th century. ( )
  xieouyang | Jun 10, 2013 |
Funny, but bittersweet story about what happens to a family when the 85-year old father decides to remarry - a 36 year old divorcee from the Ukraine. This story especially touched me because of the similarities between the father and my own. (No 36 year old wife, but an immigrant who is passionate about engineering and the losses that come with aging.) ( )
  jmoncton | Jun 3, 2013 |

This book was fun, although occasionally it drove me crazy. The British woman who narrates it is the daughter of Ukrainian immigrants, and the novel mainly centers on her father, after her mother’s death. So he acts a bit nutty? What does that mean? Is he a genius, nuts, or just a lonely old man? The novel borders on farce at times, as the narrator’s father marries a surgically-enhanced blonde from Ukraine in order to help her immigrate.

All the characters are a little off the wall, but somehow quite believable. The relationship between the narrator and her older sister (a war baby, born in Ukraine) is sensitively drawn.
( )
  astrologerjenny | Apr 25, 2013 |
This book explained too much when no explanation was necessary, and explained too little when there was much that should have been said. There were also chronological issues throughout-- it went back and forth in time, but in a way that made the novel seem haphazardly-organized. I understand that going from present to the family's past is an integral part of the novel, but it was done so abruptly that I couldn't appreciate it, and there didn't seem to be a rhyme or reason to when it sprung up in the context of the present-day setting. I had been looking forward to reading it for some time, it being recommended to me based on supposed similarities with my favorite book, but unfortunately it did not live up to its expectations. It was, however, humorous at times. ( )
  lizmcglynn | Apr 10, 2013 |
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