Saturday, February 28, 2009

Staff Picks - A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian

In an earlier post, David talked about 50 page guideline. If a book doesn't grab you after 50 pages, then it's ok to put it aside and try something else. In theory, I agree with this. Life is short after all and it is overwhelming to think of all that is out there to read. In practice, I have a really hard time with this. It's not often that I can put a book aside once I have started. I can think of two instances. Moby Dick and Harry Potter. This is starting to feel confessional. The librarian who didn't finish Harry Potter.

Maybe this could be another posting for another time - books everyone else seemed to like, but not me.

My point is, if I followed the 50 page guideline, then I wouldn't have finished Marina Lewycka's A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian. This book was recommended to me by someone whose book tastes suit mine. So I was surprised when I didn't initially like it.

In a nutshell, an elderly Ukrainian man (living in England) marries a much younger woman and his adult daughters are outraged. The woman is obviously looking for a way into the country (she too is Ukrainian) and does not treat him very kindly. In the ensuing drama family secrets are revealed.

My objection was not with the writing style. It was light and humorous and I was amused by the English Ukrainian language. It was the subject matter. I found it to be sad despite the lighthearted treatment. However, I stuck it out and was charmed and thoroughly amused by the end. Especially the last page. That's all I'll say about that.

It is hard to think of similar reads for this one. Joyce Carol Oates might be a choice for those interested in family dramas. I came across The Year is '42 by Nella Bielski. This book deals with Kiev under German occupation. It might contain a flavour of what the family underwent before emigrating to England.

And I will continue to accept her book recommendations. She was right in the end.

No comments:

Post a Comment