Saturday, 25 June 2011

Two Caravans by Marina Lewycka

A few weeks ago I was travelling by train through Kent, the Garden of England.  I saw the strawberry fields and through a gap in a hedge I was completely taken aback to see row after row after row of caravans.  A whole field on the side of a hill had been given over to them.

I hadn't realised when I picked up this book how much this would come back, almost to haunt me.  Although the book is described as hilarious, I think there's far more tragedy than comedy in it.  Whether intended or not, it's a social commentary on migrant workers, on battery farming methods, on human trafficking.  It follows the story of a mixed group of workers in Kent, then on to London and finally, briefly, Sheffield.

I was close to giving up early on in the book, partly because I didn't much care for the characters and the story didn't grab me, but I'm glad now that I persisted.  I'll never look at strawberries or chicken portions in the same way again.

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