A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian is a multi-faceted story -- hysterically funny, very touching and at times at bit harrowing -- all in one novel.
It is a delightful read, with brilliant character development, and written in an impeccable vernacular. Due to these attributes, whilst reading A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian it is entirely possible to not only see the characters in your minds eye, but to hear their accents as well.
The story is told by Nadia, younger sister of Vera, and daughter of Nikolai, an elderly Ukrainian widow who is being pursued by the young and determined Valentina – that is determined to gain entry into the UK – for whatever it takes.
Nadia and Vera never saw eye to eye until Valentina came into their lives. Nadia learns and begins to understand her sister and father much more through this journey into her family’s history.
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian touches upon several of the key points in Russian, Soviet and Ukrainian history. The references to tractors are a sub-story of Nikolai’s fascination with the evolution of mechanical engineering in relation to the invention of tractors.
One of the key themes that is brilliantly exemplified in many parts of this novel is that of survival.
Baba Sonia fed her family on soup made from grass and wild sorrel during the Great Famine.
Nikolai escaped from the Russian Army and hid in a broken tomb in a cemetery.
A young Vera stole cigarettes from a labour camp guard in order to keep her bullies at bay.
The Mayevskyj’s simply carried on to “grow vegetables, mend motorbikes, send us to school and worry about exam results” despite terrifying memories of life in a German labour camp.
As Nikolai told Nadia in the end….“You see Nadezhda, to survive is to win”
“Extremely Funny” – The Times
“Hugely enjoyable….yields a golden harvest of family truths” – Daily Telegraph
“An extraordinary read….nothing short of amazing” – Daily Express
“Thought-provoking, uproariously funny, a comic feast. A riotous oil painting of senility, lust and greed” – Economist