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A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian

3.40  ·  Rating details ·  25,325 ratings  ·  2,565 reviews
From The New Yorker:

"In this comic first novel, two estranged sisters living in England discover that their addled elderly father, a Ukrainian war refugee and expert on tractors, is planning to marry a young, enormous-breasted woman who sees his modest pension as her ticket to capitalist comfort. The sisters put aside their differences, and embark on a spirited campaign to
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Paperback, 294 pages
Published March 28th 2006 by Penguin (Non Classics) (first published March 31st 2005)
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Acinorev Nadja is 47 and Vera is in her 50s when the story takes place. I can't recall if there is any mention of their age when they came to Britain.

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Average rating 3.40  · 
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 ·  25,325 ratings  ·  2,565 reviews


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Paul Bryant
Jun 21, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
This reads like the author has earnestly followed some kind of How To Write a Comic Novel course.

1 - write about what you know. Check! She's British Ukrainian and this is all about British Ukrainian stuff.

2 - Decide on a strong central narrator and give them a winning personality. Check! Boy oh boy does our first person narrator want you to like her. When I was reading this today and the doorbell rang I thought that was her come round with some freshly baked pampushky. As the story rolls along
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Nataliya
Apr 19, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012-reads
Never before have I bought a book because of title alone. Plus, it was sandwiched between Nicholas Sparks (ughhh!) and "Eat, Pray, Love" (blerghhh!). I rescued it from this ghastly company and expected a grateful dose of funny in return.


But instead of fun with tractors I got the above - the family squabbles, elderly abuse, well-hidden family secrets that nobody wants to unearth, the pent-up years of anger and frustration, and the misery of life. In a nutshell, it is a story of a very

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F
Sep 05, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, abandoned, uk
I hated this book.

It took me so long to read it.

I was recommended this book by my friend in work who is also a big reader. We had been discussing "the 100 year old man that stepped out the window and ran away" as we had both read it and loved it. I explained how I had a soft spot for books about old men. He suggested I read this book as he said it was similar. I can see the similarities but I just hated the old man in this story.

He angered me and so did his stupid daughters. I hated all the
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Donald
Jul 17, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I recently picked this book up used at my local library for $1. The cover burst advertised that it was nominated for a Man Booker Prize, and the back cover copy boasted that it was an international bestseller that was shortlisted for the Orange Prize.

My thoughts on that after reading the book: What the fuck?

The quick synopsis of the plot is this: Gold-digging Ukrainian immigrant hussy latches on to an elderly Ukrainian widower in England, marries him, and tries to take his money and his house.
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Kinga
May 20, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-women-2014
My literary tastes revolve around two extremes - the high brow stuff and utter trash usually called something like "To Marry a Duke" and I don't find much enjoyment in the safe, middle of the road, commercial fiction. Either challenge me properly or provide with the cheapest kind of thrills. Knowing that about myself, I don't know what possessed me to suggest this book as our book group read. Not only did I force myself and everybody else to read this questionable work but also now all my ...more
Nandakishore Varma
There is an episode in the comedy sitcom Mind Your Language, where Jeremy Brown's motley crew of students drawn from all over the world to learn English tell jokes to pass the time. Juan Cervantes, the Spanish bartender, tells a hilarious joke: at the end, he is in stitches, unable to stifle laughter, because the joke is so funny. The problem is, it is wholly in Spanish, so nobody else in the class can understand.

This novel left me feeling like one of those class members.

This is the story of old
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Paula
Nov 14, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book had so much going for it. First: a quirky title. Second: crazy Ukrainian immigrants. Third: a love story involving horny old people. And it managed to fail miserably on all three counts.

Quick summary: Two sisters are estranged because of a mysterious event that happened 40 years ago in the Old Country. But their mother is dead and their father has taken up with a Ukrainian hussy. Also, he is writing a book about tractors. In Ukrainian. Hussy terrorizes father, sisters must get over
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Cecily
May 30, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: overrated
Adult sisters warring over parent(s), money, step mother etc. The extracts about the history of tractors are a gimmick that ought to have more relevance to justify its inclusion; the characters and plot are unoriginal and superficial and the attempts at humour feel lame.

I can't figure out the target audience, how was it shortlisted for the Orange prize (just a pun on Ukraine's Orange Revolution?) or selected as Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime?

An adult plot, but written with limited vocab (except for
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Ian "Marvin" Graye
Tractor Attraction

I knew that this book existed for some time. However, something about the title didn't attract me.

I think I have always assumed that I would prefer a book about American tractors.

Then one week I saw it again, bought it and read it within a week. I was ready for it. Our lives had mysteriously moved into alignment.

Not So Secret Family Business

Although it is set within a Ukrainian British family and it takes hilarious advantage of this fact, it reveals a lot about families
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Margitte
This book has such a long blurb that I don't want to use it here. Suffice to say that it is a perfect summary of the book. But here it is for those who would like to read it as part of my review: (view spoiler) ...more
Kate
Apr 08, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like tractors
I picked up this book because it had rave reviews printed all over the back and inside covers about how hillarious it was. I don't know if i'm missing something but I didn't find this book funny at all. I think it dealt with alot of serious issues, and was quite educational about the history of Ukraine and the perceptions of the west. Maybe there was some black comedy element I was missing, but to me I just didn't find an old man being abused, war and people mispronouncing English words amusing. ...more
Maciek
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian made the Booker longlist for 2005, which is quite a feat for a debut novel - and one of the two reasons why I chose to read it. The other one is, of course, its quirky title - I just couldn't pass a book titled like that, even though I profess absolutely no knowledge of even the most rudimentary Ukrainian. My knowledge of tractors is not much better - I'm able to identify one when I see it, but that's pretty much it.

A Short History of Tractors... is the
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Victoria
Jun 03, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book sat on my shelf for months before I finally sat down to read it. There was no good reason for my hesitance – the book has glowing reviews and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize – for some reason it just didn’t appeal to me. You know the phrase ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’? Well I do this, all the time, and I think that was the reason behind my mental block. My mind could not make the link between the words 'history', 'tractors', 'Ukrainian' and the comedy that the blurb on the ...more
Em*bedded-in-books*
Nov 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Long listed for Man Booker, this eccentric book tells the story of how an 84 year old fell in love with a 34 year old, and got married, to the consternation of his daughters who were much older than their step mom.
Valentina, the 34 year old Ukranian illegal refugee had only one aim - to become a citizen of UK.. and she didn't mind marrying for it. Whereas the old man, bit of a megalomaniac, fell in love.. and even wanted a male progeny from the union.
This dark satire revolves around how his
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Shannon (Giraffe Days)
Sep 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I was so happy to finally get a copy of this book, after coming across it in little Cosmos bookshop in St. Kilda about 2 years ago, even though I couldn't get an edition with the nicer tractor cover. I just find it tacky to print the first two sentences on the front cover, even though it is a catchy beginning.

It was certainly not quite what I was expecting - because it was nominated for the Man Booker Prize last year, I guess I was expecting something a bit heavier, more depressing. But this
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Oriana
May 07, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-2011
Well this gets a big meh. It felt like paint-by-numbers noveling: take a fucked up family, add some culturally sensitive and upsetting history, intersperse it with a quirky thing one of them does. So: two embittered, estranged sisters have to work together to help save their aging father from the much younger woman who has her talons in him / parents came from the Ukraine and survived war and purges and internment camps and other horrors / dad is (when not trying to fondle his new wife's big ...more
Joachim
Jul 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a surprisingly touching book about a (very) dysfunctional family. I don't usually like this kind of book, but I was totally hooked it kept me up at night a couple of times - it's that good.

I disagree with the reviews, however, which invariably claim that this is a hilarious book. It was funny and sad at the same time. When it was funny, it was chuckle-funny, not lough-out-loud. It's more of a real-life story about people and their problems, blown out of proportion with (slightly)
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Jamie
Aug 23, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like overhyped things
This book, despite all of its stars and reviews and etc etc was a huge disappointment. It's rare that I don't finish a book but I became so apathetic to this one that by page 180 I just left it on the floor of my room and later returned it to the library. I have no interest to know how it ends. The characters ply you for sympathy in maudlin fashion and cliches drip off every page.

Here is a summary of the book: Hey! We're Ukrainian! We have a dark family past! But we're really sardonic too! Hey!
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Vonia
A Short History Of Tractors In Ukrainian is advertised as being an extremely comical take on family drama. The latter I can agree with. The former, maybe not so much. I had a few smiles, sure. But I never laughed out loud, which is my (maybe unnecessarily high standard) definition of a truly humorous novel. It was, however, a portrayal of the ridiculousness of the green card process (if the amount of marriages bought with the sole purpose of citizenship is any indication) and the inherent ...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
That's what he is writing, a short history of tractors. In Ukrainian. Eighty-four years old, an engineer, a chess player and a father of two daughters, he had been recently widowed. Now he decides to marry a 36-year-old blonde Ukrainian divorcee with a teenage son and a pair of superior breasts. He knows that she wants to marry him only for his money and so that she and her son can make permanent their stay in England (where he and his family had migrated a long time ago) but he looks at her ...more
Genia Lukin
Oct 22, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: other, satire
I think I may have actually not enjoyed this book because, and I am going to level with people here, I am prejudiced against Ukrainians.

Let me just elaborate here, in order to clarify statement. Much of my family comes from the Ukraine, in one form or another. my father's mother is Ukrainian, my grandfather is from Cossac stock... but the major part of my family are Ukrainian Jews, by way of Russia. And as Ukrainian culturally Russian Jews... Well, let's just say that the major Ukrainian
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Nancy
A novel that reads like a memoir, sometimes funny, sometimes sad, often outrageous. I think the characters were extremely real, I felt like I was reading a memoir and though their language and treatment of each other was on the far end of dysfunctional, there was also a lot of love and family togetherness. It basically is about two sisters trying to save their aging father from being duped by a much younger buxom Ukranian refugee. I kept thinking of Anna Nicole Smith—her outrageousness, her ...more
Shovelmonkey1
May 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: tractor lovers and Ukranians
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: by an accidental osmotic imbibing of popular culture
Shelves: 1001-books
Thought this was a great book (despite myself). Easy to read, engaging, likeable characters and well written. The story deals with Nadia, Vera and their wayward Papa (author of the eponymous tractor book) as he deals with the death of their mother and then decides to accquire a young wife from the Ukraine. The arrival of the pneumatically breasted Valentina (part Valkyrie part 60's sex siren) throws the family into chaos and brings to light a lot of forgotten family history. Not laugh out loud ...more
L.A. Starks
Sep 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This play has some wonderfully-drawn, evocative characters. While the message is more down-to-earth than side-splittingly funny, the approach (with a nod toward Tolstoy) and the offbeat poetry make this a thoroughly refreshing read.

Recommended!
chelka
Jul 02, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like Eastern European stuff...?
A librarian co-worker recommended this book to me, describing it as funny and quirky. She knows I come from a Polish family and frequently recommends Russian, Polish, and other Eastern European literature. I find it interesting to read as I was not brought up with any sense of E. European culture, and this book made me wonder what I would be like if I had experienced more Polish-ness. The story revolves around two sisters in their fifties who must sit back while their recently-widowed father ...more
Alta
Mar 20, 2011 added it
One of the most enjoyable novels I've ever read: extremely funny, witty, and the Ukrainian characters are unforgettable. In fact, the book was so entertaining that I (an elitist) felt guilty because I assumed that it's the kind of novel anyone would love. So, out of curiosity I took a look at the reviews on Goodreads and... surprise: many reviews were quite negative. This may be explained by the fact that behind the lightness of the book hides a very serious subtext: the author, who was born of ...more
Punk
Oct 12, 2009 rated it it was ok
Fiction. This book isn't nearly as charming as its title, which, I'll confess, is the main reason I bought it. Mostly it's about a horny, pathetic old man who is being exploited by his much younger, practically mail-order wife. I finished it, but just barely.

The characters are Ukrainian and living in England, but don't expect to learn much about what that means for them. There's a lot of family drama, elder abuse, and not much characterization. The first person narrator, the old man's adult
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K
Jun 18, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Dumb, dumb, dumb. I have no idea why British newspapers raved about the funniness of this book -- and I usually love British humor! But this was no David Lodge. It might have worked as a short story, but as a novel it was the same joke over and over, and it got increasingly unbelievable. Additionally, although the characters apparently spoke Ukrainian, all their conversations took place in broken English. Why would a bunch of Ukrainians get together and converse in broken English? Oh -- silly ...more
Pradnya K.
May 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor, 2018, war-stories
That was an accident, to find this book. I had been to a book sale and returned, scrounging through it, empty-handed. I was about to leave the venue when a friend arrived, we returned to the venue and he sorted out books for me, all remarkable one that I couldn't see at the first time and there sits this one on top, the short history of the tractors in Ukrainian.

I liked the narrative since very beginning. The modern English with tint of colloquial conversation, the post worldwar setting of
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Imi
This peaked at the quirky title. Any of the jokes that were vaguely amusing at the start of the quickly lost their charm as they were repeated again and again throughout. None of the characters or themes were developed in any meaningful way, and most of the attempts of humour felt cheap, unoriginal and stereotypical. All the characters in this family were bitter and petty in a way I just found infuriating rather than sympathetic or amusing. Also by the end the broken English was really grating ...more
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Marina Lewycka is a British novelist of Ukrainian origin, currently living in Sheffield, England.

Lewycka was born in a refugee camp in Kiel, Germany after World War II. Her family then moved to England where she now lives. She was educated at Keele University and works as a lecturer in media studies at Sheffield Hallam University.

In addition to her fiction, Lewycka has written a number of books
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“As Romeo and Juliet found to their cost, marriage is never just about two people falling in love, it is about families.” 22 likes
“When I saw the car pulling into the driveway and I saw her getting out and walking towards the house, can you imagine Nadezhda, I performed involuntary excretion in my trousers.” 6 likes
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