Marcus and Doro were part of a left-wing commune from the late 1960s until the early 1990s: lentils, free love, spliffs, radical politics, cheesecloth blouses, sex, housework and cooking rotas, crochet, allotments. Their children have grown up rather different from them: primary schoolteacher Clara craves order and clean bathrooms, son Serge is pretending to his parents that is still doing a Maths Ph.d. at Cambridge, while in fact making loadsamoney in the City; third child Oolie Anna, who has Down's Syndrome, is desperate to escape home and live on her own. Once the truth starts breaking through, who knows what further secrets will be revealed about any of them? Set half in Doncaster, half in London, this is a very funny riff on modern values, featuring hamsters, cockroaches, poodles, a chicken and multiplying rabbits, told by Marina Lewycka in her unique and brilliant combination of irony, farce and wit.
I am in the last quarter of this book. I listen to books while walking the dog for about an hour each day. I have always enjoyed Marina Lewycka's books. The story jumps from one character to another and often back into the past when the characters were young. She is as funny an ever and sometimes people must wonder why I am laughing as I walk! Some books I can't wait to hear what happens next - but not with this book - it is what I call leisurely listening (reading). The narrator is excellent.
Took me a bit of time to get into this book. But stuck with it and enjoyed it greatly in the end. Quite a different story going on with lots of characters dipping in and out. Nicely told. And sad in its way.
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Not Marina Lewycka's best - that remains 'A short history of tractors in Ukranian', where all new readers should start - but still an enjoyable romp through through the last forty years or so. The characters are great: the parents - Doro and Marcus who spent much of their life in a commune; their children - Clara, the conscientious school-teacher, Serge, the gullible Maths Ph,D. who drifts into the City, and Oolie with Down's Syndrome, who longs for independence for her over-protective mum. Don't expect great depth from the characters - as in Dickens, they are designed to illustrate social situations, drive the story, and provide opportunities for great dialogue. Don't expect too much from the social commentary either - it's a wry and gentle poking of fun at the delusions of 1980s Marxism, the naivety of youth, the amoral absurdity of modern investment banking, the ageing process, and the nature of relationships, which ocassionally reaches the level of laugh-out load farce. As someone of Doro and Marcus's generation, I enjoyed it, but I've no idea how other generations would find it. A perfect book for Radio Four listeners.
After enjoying Marina Lewycka's previous novels, and anticipating that an audio experience would be even more enjoyable than reading, I was thoroughly disappointed with this book. It's not the narrator's fault - just that the story is dull and the characters trite and 2-dimensional. What a shame when Tractors, Caravans etc were all so enjoyable and well observed - light reads that were more substantial than your average aeroplane novel.
Any additional comments?
This was a good, amusing story with some great characters. I particularly liked Oolie Anna.