Vincent O'brien's Reviews > A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka
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Aug 03, 2012

did not like it

I tried really hard to read this book but , in the end , gave up.

When I was a teenager I really liked reading science fictlion. I also read Joseph Heller, JD Salinger etc . But i never understood the idea of the literary novel. As I grew older and my life became busier I stopped reading novels. It felt like such a passive way to interact with the world.

About ten years ago, when work had come to take up almost all of my thinking time, I needed to find a way to clear it out of my head. I started to read novels again. I would read to fall asleep and felt like I could read anything. It didn't have to be good, it was enough that a book would keep me going to the end of a page so that I would fall asleep. I loved the feeling of drifting into sleep in the middle of someone else's world.

Then came this book. I'd seen it in so many airport bookshops so I thought it might be just right for my very limited reading needs.

I can say this book changed my life. Before this book I could read anything. Nothing was so badly written, so dull, so frustratingly bad that I would give up on it. Not until this book!

I really did try with this. Night after night I read, hoping that very soon it would stop irritating me and just let me read a paragraph or two without thinking, " How did this ever get published?"

After a few weeks I had to admit defeat. This book was unique, it was a first, but it did change my reading habits. I wouldn't say my efforts toread this made me more discriminating in my reading habits, but it did weaken my resolve. And as time passed and I began to find more books that utterly defeated me, I learned to work at reading. My youthful ideas about the passivity of reading were modified. I did find more books that were so bad that I gave up on them, but I found others that , with a bit of effort on my part, I could finish. Even some that, with a bit of work, i could enjoy, That, I began to realise, was the secret of the literary novel. The literay novel generally lacked a clear story line and presented as self consciously hard to read , but if you could persist, you could be rewarded by the mental challenge required to uncover the, sometimes interesting ideas behind the writing. Fair enough if you are in the mood for a mental challenge.

Back tothe tractors then. Despite being largely responsible for my awakening to reading as a chalkenge and the world of literary fiction, this book is not literature. It is just plain bad, uninspiring and dull. I still don't know why, apart from having some kind of vague interest in tractors, you might want toread this. Except, if you are like me and unable to distinguish between good books that somehow hide the story so you have to work to find it and bad books that just hide the story because the writing and the ideas that inspire it, are so insipid and worthless that the book should never have been written, never mind published.

Read this if you, like me, think reading should always be enjoyable. You will learn something that challenges your simple version of the truth!
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Marion Husband Interesting review

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