ISBN-13: 9780670916382
Publisher: Fig Tree (Penguin Books)
Published: 2007
310 pgs

There is a field - a broad south-sloping field sitting astride a long hill that curves away into a secret leafy valley. It is sheltered by dense hedges of hawthorn and hazel threaded through with wild roses and evening-scented honeysuckle. In the mornings, a light breeze carries up over the Downs, just enough to kiss the air with the fresh salty tang of the English Channel. In fact so delightful is the air that, sitting up here, you might think you were in paradise. And in the field are two caravans, a men's caravan and a women's caravan. ~ An excerpt from Two Caravans

This is a story about a little group of migrant workers and their journey across England in pursuing for a better future. It does not matter that they came from various countries - Ukraine, Poland, China and Malaysia as all of them share the same dream though for different reasons.

Irina, a young Ukrainian girl wants to learn English and find her true love with an Englishman because she finds them romantic. Andriy, another Ukrainian and a miner's son does not want to follow his late father's footstep of being a coalminer. And then, there is Tomasz and Yola from Poland, and Marta who is Yola's niece. Emanuel, an eighteen-year-old boy from Malawi who come to England to look for his sister, and two Chinese girls from China and Malaysia. And then, there is Vitaly from Moldova.

They live in tiny and cramped caravans and feed very little for their meals and worst of all, they are underpaid. Mr Leapish, the field owner is a calculative man and he does not care about their welfare as long as he pays his bills and makes profits. Life goes on as usual until the farmer's wife found out that the husband has an affair with one of the workers and runs him down in her red sports car. Sensing their bleak future and to escape from this disastrous episode, the workers left the field to find other ways to support themselves.

Two of them are lured into the sex industry, while the others find their employment in another strawberry field, a poultry farm and kitchen helpers in a restaurant. They find themselves in woe as the jobs they end up with are either too horrific or unbearable. There are also some descriptive scenes of how chickens are being breed and are badly mauled into the cages before meeting their ends under the butchers' knives that made me shudder.

But not everything is bleak in this story as the two workers from Ukraine find their way out and ends up falling in love with each other. Two Caravans (aka Strawberry Fields) is not entirely a depressing story about the migrant workers' life in other country, but also a gritty and thought-provoking one that brims with comedy. Marina Lewycka has written this novel in a hilarious way that will make you chuckle but yet it tells the true factual life of some migrant workers that they are still facing today. I would also say this is more of a character-driven story than a plot-driven story. I really enjoyed this novel and I am looking forward to reading her other novel, A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian in the near future.

Interview with Marina Lewycka (Loaded Questions with Kelly Hewitt)

12 Responses
  1. Debi Says:

    Thank you, Melody! What a wonderful review...immediately to the wish list it goes!
    And I know it shouldn't matter, but I love those covers!

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Thanks for mentioning the interview, Melody. I have long been a big fan of Marina.

    Kelly Hewitt
    Loaded Questions

  3. Iliana Says:

    That's a great review Melody. I hadn't heard too much about this book so now I actually know what it's about :)

    I read Short History last year I think and part of me liked it but there were some things that didn't work. I would definitely read another of her books though. If you get to Short History I'd love to hear your thoughts.

  4. Shana Says:

    Melody, this book sounds interesting, especially since I've always been interested in the plight of migrant workers.

    I also think the cover is very eye-catching.


  5. Anonymous Says:

    Thank you for a thoughtful review. I have enjoyed The Tractors book very much and am going to reading more of her. These two are in! :)

  6. I have heard of the author's other book, but not this one. You have me really curious now though. I am especially interested because of the migrant worker aspect. Straight to my wish list. Thank you for the great review, Melody.

  7. When I was reading your review I remembered another I read for A Short History... I didn't realize they were both by the same author! As a grandchild of European immigrants (my paternal Grandparents immigrated from Switz to Canada in the 50s to become gardeners), I think this book would be really interesting! And I love a good character-driven story! ;) Thanks for the heads up!

  8. Ana S. Says:

    I've heard a lot about Marina Lewycka, especially her first novel. It's great to hear this one's good too. I really want to give her a try sometime.

  9. Kim L Says:

    Sounds like a good read! I think books that deal with grim topics in a humorous way can be very poignant, because you swallow all the book much more easily.

    Great review!

  10. Ladytink_534 Says:

    It sounds really far outside my comfort zone but it does sound like an interesting read.

  11. Melody Says:

    Debi - I'm hoping you'd read this book soon. I love the covers too! :)

    Kelly - Thank you! I really enjoyed reading your interview! :)

    Iliana - Short History is on top of my to-buy list now! ;P

    Shana - I think the premise is great; and it's really interesting to read about those migrant workers' experience so it's an 'eye-opener' to me.

    Matt - Now I can't wait to read her other book! ;)

    Wendy - I'm happy to note you'll be adding this book to your wishlist! I'm hoping to read your review on it one day soon! :)

    Trish - I hope you'll enjoy it if you get to it. :)

    Nymeth - I wish I've found her first novel earlier! ;) Because after reading this book, I definitely want to read her other book.

    Kim - That's what I think about the writing style on this book. It sure makes it an easy read besides the interesting plot and the migrant workers aspects.

    Jen - Oh, I hope you'll give it a try if you can. It's an interesting read IMO.

  12. Anonymous Says:

    Yay! Good to hear good things about this book, I've always intended to read some works by this author.

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