Strawberry Fields

( 4 )

Overview

The bestselling author of A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian is back with an 'effervescent comedy' (The New Yorker)

The follow up to her hugely popular first novel presents a Canterbury Tales?inspired picaresque that is also a biting satire of economic exploitation. When a ragtag international crew of migrant workers is forced to flee the strawberry fields they have been working in, they set off across England looking for employment. Displaying the same sense of ...

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Strawberry Fields

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Overview

The bestselling author of A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian is back with an 'effervescent comedy' (The New Yorker)

The follow up to her hugely popular first novel presents a Canterbury Tales?inspired picaresque that is also a biting satire of economic exploitation. When a ragtag international crew of migrant workers is forced to flee the strawberry fields they have been working in, they set off across England looking for employment. Displaying the same sense of compassion, social outrage, and gift for hilarity that she showed in A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, Marina Lewycka chronicles their bumpy road trip with a tender affection for her downtrodden characters and their search for a taste of the good life.

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Editorial Reviews

Louis Bayard
…it's more than just funny. It's also sad and wise and tender and generous and even sexy…It is to the author's credit that her satirical impulse never disguises the terrible sadness of her characters' lives. If anything, the comedy and drama draw from the same source: the gap between dreams and numbing reality.
—The Washington Post
San Francisco Chronicle
[A] comic genius . . . [Lewycka is] more precisely a mistress of the tragicomic, seamlessly welding humor and pathos into realistically zany episodes.
Washington Post
It's more than just funny. It's also sad and wise and tender and generous and even sexy. . . . One way or another, these strawberry fields are forever.
Seattle Times
A stunning novel. . . . Strawberry Fields stands along the best of Zadie Smith and Monica Ali. It is sometimes outrageous, sometimes bawdy, and constantly entertaining.
Publishers Weekly

U.K.-based Lewycka, a Booker and Orange Prize nominee for 2005's A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, follows up with a Chaucer-inspired tale of migrant workers trapped at global capital's thuggish bottom. After being "helped" into England by men like Vulk, an armed, lecherous creep of indeterminate former east bloc origins, a disparate group of strawberry pickers begins a pilgrimage-like search for labor across the countryside after their philandering boss is run over and crippled by his wife. Among them are two Ukrainians: Irina, a naïve teenager from Kiev, and Andriy, a former coal miner. After a brief stop in Canterbury, the workers-from Malawi, China, Malaysia and elsewhere-arrive in Dover with their loyal dog. There, they unexpectedly meet shady "recruitment consultant" Vitaly, who promises jobs in "the dynamic resurgence of the poultry industry." The plot moves slowly, and things get worse for the group. Lewycka doesn't have a perfect command of all the cultures she aims to represent, making some of her satires broad and unfunny. There are, however, captivating scenes (some not for the squeamish), and many of the characters are complex and multifaceted, Irina and Andriy in particular. As a send up of capitalism's grip on the global everyman, Lewycka's ensemble novel complements Gary Shteyngart's Absurdistan. (Aug.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Published in the United Kingdom under the title Two Caravans, this second novel by the award-winning Lewycka (A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian) portrays the experience of immigrants working as unskilled laborers in modern-day England. While the book's central character is perhaps 19-year-old Irina Blazkho, freshly recruited from Ukraine to pick strawberries in the English countryside, the novel actually shifts between the alternating narratives of several characters. These include another Ukrainian immigrant, a Polish woman field supervisor, a young African man, and, in a unique twist, an exuberant male canine aptly named Dog. The juxtapositions of these various narratives, along with dialog written in broken English vernacular, bring an edge of hilarity to the story. And how these immigrants are often exploited by unscrupulous farmers, business owners, and even their fellow immigrants is depicted achingly and yet with black humor. As the narrative evolves into a road and love story, Lewycka manages to rein in her sometimes sophomoric tone with wry insight. It is finally the author's keen understanding of how a global consciousness and labor market have come together with a changing European economy that gives this book its gravity and strength. Recommended for all public library fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ4/15/07.]
—Maureen Neville

Kirkus Reviews
After a disastrous strawberry-picking season, Eastern European migrant workers take a road trip across "this other Eden . . . this earth, this realm, this England" in search of meaning, stability and perhaps even love. The disaster of the strawberry season is amorous rather than agricultural, for Wendy Leaping has discovered that her husband, the owner of the strawberry fields, is having a torrid relationship with Yola, the tough crew boss. When the cops are called after Wendy runs over her husband in a bright red sports car, the workers scatter. Several take off in the trailer that had provided their accommodation during picking season. In their search for more work they encounter corrupt individuals-English, Polish and Ukrainian-who want to exploit their vulnerable status as "guest workers." Handsome Andriy has become enamored of but separated from Irina, so he goes on a quest to find her. Along the way, his companion Tomasz finds work in a chicken factory (the ironically named "Buttercup Meadow Farmfresh Poultry"), and the novel makes a brief digression into naturalism as Lewycka (A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, 2005) does for chickens in England what Upton Sinclair did for cattle in Chicago. The narrative is polyvocal and includes points-of-view that shift fluidly from Irina to Emanuel (a Malawian worker who sends letters home to his sister) to the dog that tags along with the travelers (these sections all begin "I AM DOG") to an engaged and sympathetic third-person voice that identifies closely with Andriy. Some of the comic energy of the novel emerges from the difficulties characters encounter with the language barrier. Irina, for example, tries to figure out "what onearth . . . was a Moldavian toy boy?" Andriy is driven not just by his desire to recover Irina but also by his own idealized vision of Sheffield ("a place of palaces and bougainvillea"). Strawberry-sweet, but not too syrupy.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143113553
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/29/2008
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 717,713
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

Marina Lewycka was born of Ukrainian parents in a refugee camp at the end of World War II and grew up in England. In the course of researching her family roots for this novel, she uncovered no fewer than three long-lost relatives.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 4 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2014

    I will not bow~

    I don't want to change the world. I just want to leave it colder. Light the fuse and burn in up. Take the path that leads to nowhere.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2013

    Ib

    Bjk

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2013

    Gingerflame

    He shrugged and padded away to find another.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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