Together in Spirit

An online reading group ('TIS a reading group!) to bring together friends, and friends of friends, who aren't able to be in a conventional reading group due to constraints of time or geography.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Ukrainian Tractors

OK, Val, I'll re-lend The Kite-Runner, but on condition that I bear no responsibility for what I think is likely to be repeated disappointment! I don't think it's the kind of book that you'd suddenly enjoy just because we did...

Onto Tractors. I liked (as an observer!) the sense of pantomime or farce, especially emanating from Valentina. Like Valerie, I can just SEE her. And the hordes of men, like flies. And all the variously-inadequate vehicles. And all the documents and letters swirling around in all that dirt. Very atmospheric. I also valued an insight into the expat Ukranian community in which all these things eddied, to which I had never hitherto given a moment's thought.

Reluctantly, I have to disagree with Kirsty on the broken English, which I found imaginatively funny. But that may have been partly because I was in farce/pantomime mode. That said, I didn't feel it was clumsily constructed. Yes, the plot didn't develop as much as I hoped/expected, but
I felt that the characters had not just real relationships but real histories between them and, as Valerie said, that history is all then stirred up afresh by "a fluffy pink grenade", bereavement, mishandled wills etc. The messiness of it all seemed entirely authentic.

Onto the bureaucracy... In this instance, when the author wants to have the character staying on beyond what is reasonable, it seems to be a system which gives endless chances. Equally, we hear of tragic instances where refugees seem to have no second chances and the system seems skewed the other way. Perhaps both are in fact the case, and it depends largely on one's savvy and chutzpah. I am always struck by how expertly certain fraudsters manage to claim excess money from our benefits system, when legitimate and simple contact with such bureaucracy intimidates me.

I did enjoy the book, even if it wasn't quite as dark or resolved as I expected. And I'm very glad to have been persuaded to read it since it was quite a departure for me.