Friday, November 18, 2005

Ukrainian Tractors and Rocket Launcher Bra

I'm currently reading Marina Lewycka's A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian and enjoying it so much that I'm rationing out the last few pages. Sadly, I know I'll finish it this morning over coffee.

Don't let the strange title put you off. This is a funny and very touching story of a dysfunctional immigrant family set in Peterborough. Estranged sisters Nadia and Vera are reunited when their 84 year-old father Nikolai decides to marry a woman less than half his age. Valentina of the botticellian breasts and green satin rocket-launcher bra is clearly after a marriage of convenience. She yearns for all the trappings of a Western lifestyle including a car fitting for her new station in life (she makes do with a derelict Rolls Royce which sits forlornly in the front garden) and a public school education for her "brilliant" son Stanislav, luxuries which the widower can scarcely afford. Nikolai meanwhile is at work on his book about the history of Ukrainian tractors.

As the daughters attempt to rescue Nikolai from Valentina's clutches and his own folly, secrets tumble from the family closet and force the pair to confront not only their own relationship, but also a troubled family history. It all adds up to a sharply observed social comedy with a terrific cast of characters.

I decided yesterday to buy a copy for a friend and achieved a couple of firsts. 1) First monorail ride. (Where have a been hiding?!) 2) First trip to Borders at Times Square. (Terrible admission for a bookaholic, but I try as far as possible to put myself out of the way of temptation.) Verdict?
Spacious and pleasant, but you get the impression that the shop is a bit short on stock as books are arranged face on and spread rather thinly on the shelves. (I'd say Kinokuniya is still the closest thing to book heaven in Malaysia.) Staff seemed more clued up than in most of the city's bookshops and I liked the free gift-wrapping service.

6 comments:

lil ms d said...

oo must get book!

Chet said...

Borders is opening soon at The Curve, which will bringing temptation almost to your doorstep!

starlight said...

i WAS put off by the title but i'm going to pick it up now! and yes, kinokuniya is book heaven. pity it's smack in the middle of traffic hell.

Leon Wing said...

Starlight, go by LRT - no traffic jam.

And, BTW, I have been naughty with this book - I made an MS Reader book of it, and am reading it on my PDA!

bibliobibuli said...

Wah! Naughty Leon! But I love the cover and feel of this trade paperback so I think you're missing a dimension.

BTW I cried at the end.

Anonymous said...

Hm.. I might get it too. Let's see.. whose copy can I borrow ? :)
yeah Borders is a bit low on stock. MPH and KK is good though.