January 31, 2010

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, by Marina Lewycka

There is no question that this book flowed well, and that the author is skilled. Yet I spent most of the novel irritated at the characters and wondering why I was continuing to read it. The story is about an elderly Ukrainian man, recently widowed, who marries a much younger Ukrainian woman so she can live in England legally with him. I know this wasn't the point, but I just kept on thinking the father (the story is told by his daughter) was foolish and Valentina, the bride, was a tarty bitch who needed a good punch in the face. 

The author also tells the history of the father and his first wife and older daughter back in the Ukraine before and during World War II, which was sad, but I wasn't like, "I am now so enlightened because this is super relevant to the story!" It was supposed to connect to the strained relationship of the older and younger daughters, but I didn't feel that subplot was connected well enough to the main plot. As well, there was the ongoing theme of the book the father was writing on tractors, chunks of which were actually in the book. There was supposed to be a metaphor in the tractor novel, but my eyes glazed over when I tried to read those parts and I ended up skipping them. 

All in all, an ambitious but not entirely fulfilled first novel. Yet I felt a little sad to close the book on the characters at the end. 

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