Book: Two Caravans
Author: Marina Lewycka
Rating: * * *
Author of ‘A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian’ and hardy favourite of every book club composed of those that find the Booker shortlist too strenuous and the Whitbread too common, Lewycka again deals with issues of immigration in a comic, sincere tone in her second novel.
The perspective of each character is given, whether in sections written in the first or third person, and the author even gives the dog space in her novel to voice its thoughts. This adds nothing to the novel other than the will to skip these badly-rendered passages – a bit like the patronising interjections in Desperate Housewives, or the speech at the end of Jerry Springer. The novel feels crowded – too many voices, stories and complex issues like human trafficking lead to a tonality that changes too quickly and with little warning.
Lewycka’s wit helps the novel a great deal to form something more cohesive, however, the representation of economic migration though the eyes of different cultures and peoples would always be challenging (with a few stereotypes thrown in – Chinese people going to business school and doing medicine? Ukrainians from Kiev looking down on miners from Donetsk?), the overall portrayal is a lively and entertaining one.