Below is the synopsis of the latest choice for the BGO Book Group. This is currently only available in hardback, but if you buy from an online bookseller, it will cost you little more than a paperback. If you buy through us, using the BGO Amazon link, a small proportion of the cost will eventually come back to us and help subsidise the running of this site.
For years, Nadezhda and Vera, two Ukrainian sisters, raised in England by their refugee parents, have had as little as possible to do with each other - and they have their reasons. But now they find they'd better learn how to get along, because since their mother's death their aging father has been sliding into his second childhood, and an alarming new woman has just entered his life. Valentina, a bosomy young synthetic blonde from the Ukraine, seems to think their father is much richer than he is, and she is keen that he leave this world with as little money to his name as possible. If Nadazhda and Vera don't stop her, no one will. But separating their addled and annoyingly lecherous dad from his new love will prove to be no easy feat - Valentina is a ruthless pro and the two sisters swiftly realize that they are mere amateurs when it comes to ruthlessness. As Hurricane Valentina turns the family house upside down, old secrets come falling out, including the most deeply buried one of them all, from the War, the one that explains much about why Nadazhda and Vera are so different.
In the meantime, oblivious to it all, their father carries on with the great work of his dotage, a grand history of the tractor.
I thought I'd continue the tradition of a 'first impressions' thread for the book group choice.
I haven't started reading Tractors yet (copy just arrived yesterday) but my very first impression is what a wonderful book jacket.
I know some people may find it a bit gimmicky but I just love it. It is a perfect imitation of a typical Soviet book cover, right down to the colour of the ink and the slightly squint graphic. Having spent a lot of time in Soviet Russia in the early 80's I was immediately transported back there as soon as I saw it.
Off to actually read it now....
By Lizzy Siddal
The Orange Prize is awarded on Tuesday 7.6.2005 - so will this book be the winner?
As I suggested it for the Group Read, I suppose I should be its staunchest supporter ..... however, this is not the case.
My own reaction to the book reflects the ambivalent views already expressed in this forum.
Initially appealing because of the quirkiness of its packaging and the humour blended with the mix of serious themes, it sounded marvellous. It got great reviews on the BBC Pageturners series and, to be fair, in almost every newspaper review I have read since then. I so wanted to love it .... and I did, for the first half of the book - I even laughed out loud more than once.
Then, the charm faded. I felt the author backed herself into a corner with Valentina so that, in the end, she became nothing more than a charicature. I found her personal happy ending daft and completely unrealistic. (No man can be that devoted!)
The novel was, however, powerful in its portrayal of the humiliations of old age, which at times were heartbreaking. Most fascinating of all was the sibling relationship, and I still find myself wondering how two people from the same background can become such different personages. It just shows the power of childhood experience.
In the final analysis the intention was good and the execution lacking. I do find myself wondering what makes this book deserve the accolades it is receiving. My only answer is originality, because it has that in spades. Is that enough for it to win the Orange Prize? I personally wouldn't think so. How about you?
I haven't read A Short History .. but I know it was very popular with
Reading Groups. I read Two Caravans in about five days, as I found it
an easy read. Although the novel was presented through multiple
narratives, it had a straight forward plot. At first I wondered what
the significance of many of the episodes were - the trip to the old
people's home, the visit to the protesters camp - and I decided they
all had something in common. They were all people outside of society;
whether through choice or not. This gave them a connection with the
Living in Dover I found the depiction of the area very amusing..
"people sullen, with tight faces".. but not entirely accurate - I
would say it is not apparent that there are a lot of immigrants in
Dover and there is certainly not any begging. We have many migrant
workers coming into the library and using email to talk with their
families back home. The book certainly made me think more about the
conditions in which they live and work, and how our food arrives in
the supermarkets. Even if we buy British, it appears that we cannot
avoid the exploitation of workers. I found the piece about the chicken
farm very upsetting, wincing at the descriptions of the overfed
animals too packed in to move.
The only negative comment I have to make is about the monosyllabic
first person narrative in CAPITALS of the dog. I don't think this
viewpoint was necessary at all and really detracted from the rest of
1st April 2012, 02:35 PM
Here's my review in today's Indy on Sunday of Marina Lewycka's new novel:
#2 6th April 2012, 02:36 PM
Lovely review and one that makes me want to read the book. Thank you Leyla.
#3 8th April 2012, 03:33 PM
Pleasure, Viccie, thanks so much for the compliment.x