Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Two Caravans by Marina Lewycka

This book tells the stories of a group of immigrant workers in the UK. The book switches point of view between the characters in a way which creates an original and exciting type of narrative.

As the novel develops it becomes the love story between Irina and Andriy. She is a devotee of the Orange revolution and westernisation in the Ukraine which she saw as a liberation from Russian domination. Andriy is the son of a miner who fought against the capitalist restoration and the consequent destruction of the mining industry.

Andriy is traumatised by a mining accident in which his father was buried underground. As the narrative develops it becomes clear that after the mines closed miners were forced to go underground without any safety precautions to get coal to use and sell. His grief turns into an anger against the “mobilfonmen” the spivs who have taken over the Ukraine and have their counterparts in the UK.

Irina's romanticism is gently mocked: 'English men are supposed to be incredibly romantic. There is a famous folk-legend of a man who braves death and climbs in through his lady's bedroom window just to bring her a box of chocolates.'

And the style of narration is an ideal way of showing how the two lovers misunderstand each other.

It would not be everybody’s choice to read a description of the appalling conditions of immigrant labour in the UK or the politics of the Ukraine but Marina Lewycka turns it into a tragic and comic narrative which is a good read.

And I leave the last word to Andriy “If I were a warrior, I would not be defending some stupid old stones but the flesh and blood of living people. In Donbas too the mobilfonmen have taken over, and people have become disposable, their precious lives thrown away through avoidable accidents and preventable disease, their misery blunted by vodka. This is the future his country has prepared for him - to be expendable. No he will not accept it."

The ISBN for this book is 978-0-670-91637-5. Get it from your library.



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