Monday, 11 August 2008


Well this is like way up the other end of the spectrum from the last book. If you've read "A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian" you may have picked up that Marina Lewycka's parents were originally from Ukraine but she has lived here in the UK all her life: she teaches writing at Sheffield. But her refugee childhood has stayed with her and comes out a lot in the darker bits of Two Caravans. 

She submitted Tractors for publication a stunningly persistent 36 times before it finally got accepted, and then it went on to win many, many prizes (including the PG Wodehouse) and selling bazillions. However I felt that an author whose books were about tractors and caravans deserved to be considered in my garden summer reading. 

So Two Caravans is the tricky follow-up title to a first hit - how did she get on? 

Well it's a fairly hair-raising read, I think. It's about a group of foreign strawberry pickers who've been trafficked to a really disgusting farm somewhere in Kent where they are being completely exploited by being charged loads for the rental of the two caravans where they live and for the lousy food the farmer supplies.

Things get even worse when the horrible lechy head trafficker decides he fancies Irina, the prettiest young Ukrainian. She flees him and his gun in the night, getting lost somewhere in the middle of huge fields in a genuinely tense passage. 

But it's also got a kind of comic road trip theme, as the other pickers set off in the caravan to try to change their destiny in the UK back to what they'd hoped it might be before arriving. This sometimes turns out badly - they get fleeced at more than one point - and sometimes pretty well. 

There are many things I could say about this book, but here's just two: 1) I've never read a book about the lives of people working such low-wage jobs before (maybe just articles in the Guardian) and it was eye-opening and good. 2) I'm never eating an English supermarket strawberry again. 


Posh Spice said...

I thought Two Caravans was a bit moaney and tedious. All that going on about how hard life is; give me Jackie Collins anyday.

VP said...

You've found and linked to Deb! Good for you :)

emmat said...

i know i am just the least organised person about the blogroll, but from now on I am going to add anyone whose blog i visit and like because otherwise i just forget the names

jane said...

I just found you today, loving your blog. I enjoyed the tractor book and I'll look out for this in the oxfam shop.

Off topic: You may be interested in this-

I say he's been wheedling himself in there for ages.

emmat said...

I love the idea of anyone "wheedling" themselves in anywhere,.... :_)