A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian – Marina Lewycka
August 15, 2010 § 6 Comments
The peasants ate their cows, chickens and goats, then their cats and dogs; then rats and mice; then there was nothing left to eat but grass. Between seven and ten million people died across Ukraine during the man-made famine of 1932-3.
I had borrowed this book during the same time I borrowed The History of Love. It wasn’t until I was halfway through this book that I realised the few similarities between both books: They both have the word “history” in their titles, they were both written by women, both were shortlisted for the Orange Prize, both contain a book within the book that carries the same name, and both are written in a rather humourous way.
It is unfortunate, though, that the similarities end there. While I absolutely loved The History of Love, I simply cannot say the same for this book. There were some rather interesting bits here and there, and I did manage to pick up a little about the history of Ukraine, of which I knew nothing about. But otherwise, most of the book just fell flat for me.
The story is basically about two sisters who aren’t on the best of terms, a father who’s a little eccentric, and a woman who seems to be using this old man in order to gain entry into the UK. I thought it would be interesting to read a book about tense family relationships, especially between sisters, but I couldn’t find what I expected in A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian.
Besides my disappointment in the development of family relationships, the little excerpts of the book within the book was also nothing much to shout about. As the title suggests, it is rather like a short history lesson about how tractors developed in Ukraine. And while I quite enjoy history, it was just all a little too bland for me.
I wish I had more good things to say about the book, but really, other than those few moments of funny-ness, most of it felt forced, sometimes even unnecessary. But, like always, there will be people who will love this book, as it is quite refreshing, quite different from a lot of books I’ve read so far. Just, very unfortunately, not quite for me.