Monthly Archives: November 2015

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian

by Marina Lewycka

A Short History of Tractors in UkrainianDespite the title, tractors are not the central theme of this book, although they do play a part. 
 
It is two years since the death of their mother, and for sisters Vera and Nedezhda, the only thing they have left in common is their father. We very quickly learn that this is no ordinary family and he is no ordinary father. There is no real love between the surviving members, particularly the sisters who fight continually about everything. That is until the day their 84 year-old father announces he is to marry a 34 year-old Ukrainian divorcee.
 
What follows is a witty and at times downright hilarious romp as the sisters come together to try to prevent the marriage.
The characters are wonderfully portrayed and the twists and turns of the plot border on the outrageous.
 
And yes, there are tractors, but only in a good way!
 
Told with compassion and wit, this is as good a debut as you could ask for. Whilst sympathising with Nad, who tells the story, I felt a real empathy for her poor father. He is permanently confused by modern life and has never really understood other people and their feelings. He is a very independent and practical man in many ways, but we find that he was totally dependent on his wife and is now very much adrift in a word beyond his control.
 
This book has received a lot of praise in the reviews I read, and it deserves them all. It is a great book that I enjoyed thoroughly.

 

Of Mice And Men

by John Steinbeck

Of Mice And MenI have wanted to read this book for some time. It has been a set work in English High Schools for years and so I thought I really should give it a go. I borrowed a copy from a friend and my first reaction on getting my hands on it was: “gosh, this is short!” At just 88 pages it has to be the shortest “serious” book I have ever read.

Steinbeck is a renowned and very well respected writer, so I expected one of his most popular and famous novels to be something special, especially now that I knew it was little more than a long short story. Maybe I expected too much, because although I found it interesting, it was not, as far as I am concerned, a great book.

I know, to be negative about such a book is almost like a sacrilege but it is what I felt.

Don’t get me wrong; it is a good story, with interesting characters, particularly George and Lennie, who I felt in instant report with. The portrayal of 1930s itinerant workers and America’s mid-West is revealing and just a little touching. 

Whilst I enjoyed the story itself, and can’t dispute the quality of the writing, I found the whole thing just too short and lacking any depth or direction. I wanted to know more about Lennie and George, Curley, Slim and the rest.

The fact it is so short and the simplicity of the tale is probably the reason it is so popular in schools.

For me, it was disappointing – more of a plot outline or introduction than a real book.

Cold Is The Grave

by Peter Robinson

Cold Is The GraveAnother Inspector Banks story and, like the others I have read, there is as much here about his messed up private life as there is about the crimes he investigates.

I have not been reading these books in any kind of order. Rather, I have been dipping in and out of Alan Banks’ career like a confused time traveller.

In Cold Is The Grave, Banks has no make sense of several murders, a runaway teenager and his own failing love life. Bit for once it seems that others’ lives are more confused and dysfunctional than his own.
Drawn unwittingly into the private life of his nemesis and boss, Chief Superintendent “Jimmy” Riddle, Banks is forced to face some truths about his own emotions and to face up to the realities of his own life.

A great read. Plenty of twists, good characters and well written.