A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian – Marina Lewycka

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian is one of the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die and it covers Ukraine in Read Around the World project. So it was a book that I was excited about. But throughout the first hundred and fifty pages, I couldn’t help thinking why this book was on the 1001 books list. It was absolutely very disappointing. But I kept reading because just as I was about to quit it, I saw a sentence that hit me.


A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian tells the story of a Ukrainian family who had emigrated to England years ago. Two years after the death of the mother of the family the father, who is eighty-four years old, marries to the young Valentina with big breasts from Ukraine. He just wants to save her from Ukraine and give her the best of the best in the safe country that is the UK. That marriage, of course, alarms the two daughters, Vera and Nadia.

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A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian and a sentence

As the daughters expect Valentina is a woman in pursuit of passport and wealth and she brings her son as well, who is not a genius as Valentine says. They settle comfortably into their mothers’ bedroom and their home. While the book is turning around this subject, it also allows us to look at the history of Ukraine and yes, tractors. It explains why people leave their countries and live in other countries. What kept me reading the book was this sentence: “In language are encapsulated not only thoughts but cultural values.” Since I moved to England, I’ve been thinking about languages a lot, so it would be a shame if I quit the book after reading that sentence.

It is not a bad book if you try not to care about the two-dimensional characters, but I can not say that it is one of those good books. It can be a great choice if you want to learn something about Ukraine without getting bored. Enjoy!


About the book: A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian is bestselling author Marina Lewycka’s hilarious and award winning debut novel, now available as a Penguin Essential for the first time. ‘Two years after my mother died, my father fell in love with a glamorous blonde Ukrainian divorcée. He was eighty-four and she was thirty-six. She exploded into our lives like a fluffy pink grenade, churning up the murky water, bringing to the surface a sludge of sloughed-off memories, giving the family ghosts a kick up the backside.’ 
Sisters Vera and Nadezhda must aside a lifetime of feuding to save their émigré engineer father from voluptuous gold-digger Valentina. With her proclivity for green satin underwear and boil-in-the-bag cuisine, she will stop at nothing in her pursuit of Western wealth. But the sisters’ campaign to oust Valentina unearths family secrets, uncovers fifty years of Europe’s darkest history and sends them back to roots they’d much rather forget…

About the author: Marina Lewycka

Marina Lewycka was born in 1946 in a refugee camp in Kiel, Germany. She can’t remember anything about it, but her Mum always said she was a lovely baby, and she should know. She enjoyed eating semolina (still does) so they nicknamed her Marina Semolina.

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian - Marina Lewycka

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: 

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