Strawberry Fields By Marina Lewycka
I am a little unsure about how to review Strawberry Fields, the second novel by Marina Lewycka. Her first, A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, was a wonderful and funny novel enjoyed by the readers who we have recommended it to over the past couple of years. This new book is very different; very different. The narrative flies back and forth between characters - and even a dog, which becomes as important a character as the people.
The thoughts of the dog were a stretch for me , but it all makes sense in the end, after a rollicking ride with a very eccentric cast of characters.
It is a novel about Ukrainians and other Eastern Europeans who come to England looking for work.
These particular workers have come to pick strawberries for the summer. For the most part they expect to be able to make money and return home at the end of the season.
I can't say liked this book from the beginning. It is brash, sometimes coarse.
The dialect is sometimes difficult to understand, although I enjoyed the humour of the misunderstandings of words when I got it. There is a certain amount of sex – most of it very funny.
There is some violence involved in the conflicts between the workers and the men who are making their living at the expense of these migrant labourers.
It certainly opened my eyes to the exploitation of immigrant workers in England, and they are very noticeable now in Great Britain as waitresses and hotel workers. It was very odd to be served by Eastern European waitresses last fall on the Isle of Skye in a very Scottish grand family manor, now a luxury hotel.
I understood the need for staff, but they were a little too unpolished for the job, the surrounding chintz and old family silver and china.
These strawberry pickers created by Marina Lewycka are definitely unpolished, but I found myself very concerned about their welfare as I read on.
In spite of the structure of the novel, which I found distracting at first, it became a book I didn't want to put down - there is a lot happening to these characters. It is very much a "What is going to happen next!?" sort of book - well worth reading if you are prepared for a wacky novel.