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A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka

Updated on June 23, 2015

Marina Lewycka give her book a rather misleading title!

Don't be put off by the title - in her first novel, A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, Marina Lewycka tells us an hilarious cautionary tale about her 84 year old father, an emigrant from the Ukraine, who marries Valentina, a much younger 'blond bombshell' from the Ukraine. Valentina is described by the aged father as being like 'Botticelli's Venus rising from waves' with 'superior breasts'. She is, however, a Venus who is very nearly the death of him.

This is a story about love and war, politics and history is a story that will make you laugh, and cry but above all, it will make you think.

What I Like Most About This Book

Hard to say, there's so much to like, but I think that what I enjoyed most was 'the voice'. The voice of the new wife, Valentina, who bursts into the life of Nicholai, Vera and Nadezhda, full of invectives and the most amazingly inventive terms of abuse. I love "You she-cat-dog-vixen flesh-eating witch", and "you crazy dog-eaten-brain graveyard-deadman!" and even the oft-used "no-good, meanie husband". Marina Lewycka is a writer who listens.

How Much Is True?

This book is semi-autobiographical - a book she has been writing, she says, since she was aged four. Her father did work in a Tractor company, her mother did tell her stories of her childhood and her passage from the Ukraine to England, she really did have an elder sister with whom she didn't see eye-to-eye and her eccentric father really did marry a much younger woman - but, of course, much is 'made up'.

History and Culture

Just how did two daughters, brought up by the same parents in the same household turn out so differently? Why was the tractor so important in modern world history and was it a an invention that brought happiness or misery to human kind? Yes, true to the title, you will learn many fascinating facts about tractors, but there is so much more to this short history of tractors in Ukrainian.

An Award-winning Book - for Wit and the Comic

This book was rejected 36 times before it was eventually published when Marina was aged 58, so that should give a bit of hope to all you struggling writers out there. Of course, since then it has become an award-winning best seller.

Short-listed for the 2005 Orange Prize for Fiction and long-listed for the 2005 Man Booker Prize this book actually won the 2005 - 6 Waverton Good Read Award, the 2005 Saga Award for Wit and the 2005 Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for comic writing at the Hay literary festival.

Marina Lewycka Reads a Page from a Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian

I think that the author is a better writer than reader, but still, it's nice to see and hear the author.

More Books by Marina Lewycka

If you have read and enjoyed A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, then you'll probably love the other books written by Marina Lewycka.

This is Marina Lewycka's fourth novel and it tells the story of Doro and Marcus who live in a commune and think that they change the world with lentils and love.

Various Pets Alive & Dead

This is Marian Lewycka's fourth novel and it tells the story of Doro and Marcus who live in a commune and think that they change the world with lentils and love.

We Are All Made of Glue

Georgie Sinclair already has enough to contend with when her elderly neighbour, Mrs Shapiro has an accident and names Georgie next of kin. Georgie if landed with the unenviable task of sorting out Mrs Shapiro's life.

Two Caravans

1st (first) Penguin Edition (2008) this second book was shortlisted for the 2008 Orwell Prize for political writing. Titled 'Strawberry Fields' in the United States and Canada (Don't you just hate it when they change the titles?).

I've just finished reading this and thoroughly enjoyed it. Modern day slavery, more than you ever wanted to know about the way our food reaches our tables and all with a merry twinkle and a laugh.

Two Caravans or Strawberry Fields

Two Caravans
Two Caravans

This book really hits below the belt, and pulls no punches (mixed metaphors or what?)! You'll chuckle and guffaw through this easy to read book which nevertheless tackles horrific tales of suffering immigrants, modern day slavery and the modern factory farming processes.


My French Tractor Designs on Zazzle

Find my tractor designs on a range of gifts in my LesTroisChenes online shop Zazzle
Find my tractor designs on a range of gifts in my LesTroisChenes online shop Zazzle

What Do You Think About A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian?

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© 2013 Barbara Walton

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    • Gloriousconfusion profile image

      Diana Grant 

      4 years ago from United Kingdom

      I read A Short Book of Tractors in Ukrainian several years ago when it first came out and loved it - amusing, interesting and the characters were so life-like you could almost imagine being there with them. I've bought Two Caravans, but not had time to read it yet - looking forward to it

    • BLouw profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Walton 

      5 years ago from France

      @Ruthi: I'm pleased the title worked for you and I do hope that you enjoyed it as much as I did Ruthi.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Actually, the title drew me in, even more so when you say not to be put off by it! Thanks for introducing me to a new author. I will certainly have to give Marina Lewycka a go and read one or more of her books.


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