Monday, October 19, 2015

A Short History Of Tractors In Ukrainian - By Marina Lewycka

I picked this book up at the airport on my way to Langkawi a few weeks ago. It was one of those sleepy early mornings. I did not have any particular title in mind but I knew I wanted something comedic. I seem to lean towards comedic literary fiction these days.

This book does not disappoint in the comedy genre. But there was more to this book's mission than just to tell the story of a hopeless romantic old man (and its tragic consequences). The book set out to tell several main stories. The old man and his new wife. The two sisters (whose story development, I particularly enjoyed). And the story of civilian life during the Ukraine war.

The thing about this story is that the characters do not go out of their way to be funny. The normal things they do is just funny. Well, "funny" to the reader, at least. They are, in relative terms, pretty normal. Actually, scarily normal. So scarily normal that they can actually be people around you and me. Heck, it can even be you or me. Which makes one think, actually, could whatever situation we are in actually be funny in retrospect? Or even current-spect? To someone else, maybe? Even if we don't think it is funny?

To me, I thought the book was refreshingly insightful. Not just because it peeps into someone else's life, but I have never read a Ukrainian heavy story before. I appreciate how the writer kept the integrity of Ukrainian conversation style in tact throughout the story. It was interesting getting used to all the spellings and sometimes fragmented speech, but I think that was stylistically cool. In reading stories like this, I want to be immersed into the cultural background of the plot and setting.

I recommend this book, but I caution that it is not necessarily light reading. There are parts that are easy reading but the real meat of the story is in the heavier, history laden parts. These are the parts that lend depth and dimension to the story. The tractors part. But you should read this book. It is too close to reality not to.

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