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Book 141: Two Caravans by Marina Lewycka

Book 141: Two Caravans (US Title: Strawberry Fields).
Author: Marina Lewycka, 2007.
Genre: Comedy-Drama. Contemporary.
Other Details: Paperback. 320 pages.

"I have already started to think about the book I will write when I get back home, but you have to have something interesting to write about, don't you? More interesting than a bunch of strawberry pickers living in two caravans." - Irina, Two Caravans.

This novel centres on a group of migrant workers who hail from Eastern Europe, China, Malaysia and Africa. They have come to England to harvest strawberries. As they don't have the proper papers to work, they are exploited and underpaid. They live in two small caravans, a men's caravan and a women's caravan.

When the farmer's wife discovers that her husband is having an affair with the overseer of the work group, she runs him over with her car. She then tells them that they will be blamed by the police. Thus, the group flees by hooking up an ancient Land Rover to one of the caravans. There follows a series of misadventures as they look for employment throughout England.

The novel deals with some quite harsh subjects such as the exploitation of vulnerable people, human trafficking, and battery farming, Lewycka is very sympathetic in her ability to portray her characters and tackles these difficult political and social subjects with insight. There is also a quite gentle love story at its heart.

However, I found myself having quite an ambivalent response to this novel. Yes, it was quite funny but considering the subject matter it felt wrong that it was somehow. This was echoed by others in our library reading group though we all agreed that it was thought provoking.
Tags: contemporary
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