Have you ever been aware of books that came out, created a lot of interest, got lots of good reviews but then never got round to reading it? A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian definitely falls into this category for me and that is probably what prompted me to buy a copy whilst sitting in an airport without a book recently.
The first thing to say that it did live up to expectations once you could get over the slightly implausible central plot line (84 year old Ukrainian now living in rural England marrying a recently arrived Ukrainian “lady” of 36). It was funny; it was charming but it was also somewhat darker than I had been expecting at times and revealed glimpses into the brutal history of Ukraine and the effect this had had on the family at the centre of the book.
The family consists of two sisters who have never got on but are united in their desire to keep the gold digging Valentina away from their father (and his money). The story is narrated by the younger sister, Vera, and it is her fabulously confiding and chatty writing style that is one of the book’s great strengths. Incidentally, there are regular (short) chapters in the book about the history of tractors but they are not in Ukrainian and quite interesting in their own right!
So, to sum up, this was definitely a book worth catching up with and certainly a lot more interesting than the England football team’s recent exploits in Kiev!