Thursday 18 October 2007

fluffy pink grenade

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian
by Marina Lewycka

This book was given to me by a friend to read. It was an incongruous choice for him let alone me to be reading but it is an award winning book I had seen so many people reading and like Harry Potter if you want to pass judgement you need to read the damn thing.

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.

This opening paragraph neatly sums up the plot. There is lots of fun to be had in the character of Valentina, the 'fluffy pink grenade', especially in her choice of words. Her broken english results in the baldest of insults; our narrator Nadia is a 'no-tits crow' and her father a 'crazy dog-eaten brain graveyard-deadman'. But the comedy wasn't the main thing for me (It was strictly smile-to-myself rather then laugh-out-loud), more interesting is the effect this churning of the waters has on the relationship between the two sisters Nadia and Vera, as well as the gradual unveiling of this family's sad history through the second world war. Many of these sections are quite poignant (although the neat summary at the end of the book seemed a little patronising) and show the impact of living through trauma, the stories we tell ourselves to make a coherent narrative of life during wartime.

You don't need me to say much more, you've probably read it already, quite why this book became such a bestseller I don't know but it was enjoyable enough.


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