A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian by Marina Lewycka
I don't know how I acquired this book, it has been on my shelf for a while, I have picked it up then put it back again a few times. I'm glad I didn't get rid of it, it's an excellent story.
Sisters Vera and Nadezhda must put aside a lifetime of feuding to save their émigré engineer father from voluptuous gold-digger Valentina. Nikolai is eighty four, she is thirty six and will stop at nothing in her pursuit of Western wealth, a British passport and an education for her son. She constantly ridicules him, "You useless shrivel-brain shrivel-penis donkey," she screeches, "you dried shrivelled relic of ancient goat turd." Then flicks him with a wet towel. Whilst her behaviour is cruel, as the history of her country unfurls it is easy to see how she has turned out like this, and that she is actually quite vulnerable. Nikolai knows she doesn’t love him but is too fragile to do anything about it, in fact at first the old boy is brimming with glee at having rescued a beautiful woman from poverty. "Botticelli's Venus rising from waves," he enthuses. With her golden hair and superior breasts, that he has paid for and now has regular access to, she reawakens in him the soft scents of the Steppes, the smells of new-mown hay and cherry blossom. While Valentina is at work Nikolai fills his days writing a novel about the history of tractors, which I found quite interesting.
The sisters’ campaign to save their father from himself unearths family secrets and uncovers fifty years of Europe’s darkest history. And the sadness of their differences, one a war baby, the other a peace baby.
I enjoyed it, it was funny, touching and a little quirky.