A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian
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"A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian" Summary

By Marina Lewycka

fiction | 326 pages | Published in NaN

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian was bestselling author Marina Lewycka's bestselling debut novel which has sold over one million copies worldwide. Lewycka tells the side-splittingly funny story of two feuding sisters, Vera and Nadezhda, who join forces against their father's new, gold-digging girlfriend.Two years after my mother died, my father fell in love with a glamorous blonde Ukrainian divorcée. He was eighty-four and she was thirty-six. She exploded into our lives like a fluffy pink grenade, churning up the murky water, bringing to the surface a sludge of sloughed-off memories, giving the family ghosts a kick up the backside.Sisters Vera and Nadezhda must aside a lifetime of feuding to save their émigré engineer father from voluptuous gold-digger Valentina. With her proclivity for green satin underwear and boil-in-the-bag cuisine, she will stop at nothing in her pursuit of Western wealth.But the sisters' campaign to oust Valentina unearths family secrets, uncovers fifty years of Europe's darkest history and sends them back to roots they'd much rather forget . . . .


Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

A family is thrown into chaos when their widowed father announces plans to marry a young Ukrainian woman in order to secure her residency in the UK.


"A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian" is a captivating and humorous novel written by Marina Lewycka. This book takes readers on a journey through the lives of two Ukrainian sisters as they navigate the complexities of family, love, and the challenges of immigration. With its blend of comedy, drama, and insightful storytelling, this novel has resonated with readers around the world.

Brief Synopsis

The novel is set in the early 21st century in a small town in England and revolves around the lives of two Ukrainian sisters, Nadezhda and Vera. The story begins when their father, Nikolai, a widowed Ukrainian immigrant, announces his plans to marry a much younger Ukrainian woman named Valentina, who he claims is a voluptuous beauty. Valentina's arrival sparks a series of events that unearth family secrets, financial troubles, and emotional turmoil. As the sisters try to protect their father, they also find themselves confronting their own past and current challenges. The novel is a poignant exploration of immigration, family dynamics, and the search for identity.

Main Characters

The novel features several key characters whose lives intertwine and drive the plot forward:

NadezhdaThe older sister, a pragmatic and caring woman trying to protect her father and family.
VeraThe younger sister, a fiery and independent woman who clashes with her father's new wife.
NikolaiThe sisters' widowed father, an eccentric and stubborn man with a passion for the history of tractors.
ValentinaNikolai's new wife, a brash and materialistic woman with her own motivations for marrying him.

Summary of Story Points Over Chapters

Chapter 1-3: The Introduction of Valentina

Nikolai announces his intention to marry Valentina, a much younger Ukrainian woman, causing shock and concern for his daughters. Valentina arrives in England and immediately exerts her influence, leading to tensions within the family.

Chapter 4-6: Uncovering Family Secrets

As the family dynamics become increasingly strained, Nadezhda and Vera uncover troubling information about Valentina's past and her motivations for marrying their father. Their efforts to protect him from her influence lead to conflicts and revelations.

The family faces financial challenges, and the threat of losing their home becomes a pressing concern. Legal battles and attempts to safeguard their father's assets add to the mounting tensions within the family.

Chapter 10-12: Reconciliation and Healing

Amidst the chaos, the sisters begin to reconcile with their own past and find common ground. They also come to understand their father's vulnerabilities and the complexities of his relationship with Valentina.

Main Events

  • Nikolai's announcement of his intention to marry Valentina
  • Valentina's arrival in England and her immediate impact on the family dynamics
  • Uncovering Valentina's questionable past and motivations
  • Financial struggles and legal battles faced by the family
  • The sisters' reconciliation and understanding of their father's vulnerabilities

Themes and Insights

Immigration and Identity

The novel delves into the immigrant experience and the challenges of maintaining cultural identity while adapting to a new country. It explores the tensions between the older generation's attachment to their homeland and the younger generation's efforts to integrate into a new society.

Family Dynamics and Relationships

The complexities of family relationships, especially in the context of remarriage and step-parenting, are central themes in the novel. It highlights the impact of emotional and generational differences on family unity and the resilience required to navigate these challenges.

Love and Loss

The novel portrays love in various forms, from the complexities of romantic relationships to the enduring bond between family members. It also delves into the themes of grief and loss, particularly in the context of the sisters coming to terms with their mother's death.

Reader's Takeaway

"A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian" offers readers a compelling blend of humor, drama, and poignant storytelling. Through the lens of the protagonist's experiences, readers gain insights into the complexities of family, immigration, and the search for identity. The novel's rich character development and engaging plot make it a captivating read that prompts reflection on the universal themes of love, loss, and resilience.


Marina Lewycka's "A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian" is a thought-provoking and entertaining novel that skillfully weaves together themes of immigration, family dynamics, and the complexities of love. With its memorable characters and engaging storytelling, this novel has resonated with readers worldwide, offering a captivating exploration of the human experience.

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian FAQ

  1. What is 'A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian' about?

    The book is about a man named Nikolai who falls in love with a much younger woman, Valentina, who is from Ukraine. The story follows the family dynamics and conflicts that arise when Nikolai decides to marry Valentina, including the involvement of his two daughters and the challenges of dealing with Valentina's motives.

  2. Who is the author of 'A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian'?

    The author of the book is Marina Lewycka, a British novelist of Ukrainian origin. She is known for her humorous and insightful storytelling.

  3. What genre does 'A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian' belong to?

    The book is a work of fiction and can be classified as a comedy-drama or a domestic fiction novel.

  4. Is 'A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian' based on a true story?

    No, the book is a work of fiction. While it contains elements that may resonate with real-life experiences, it is not based on a specific true story.

  5. What are some themes explored in 'A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian'?

    The book delves into themes such as family dynamics, immigration, cultural clashes, love and relationships, and the complexities of aging.