An Ice-Cream War: A Novel
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"Rich in character and incident, An Ice-Cream War fulfills the ambition of the historical novel at its best."
--The New York Times Book Review
Booker Prize Finalist
"Boyd has more than fulfilled the bright promise of [his] first novel. . . . He is capable not only of some very funny satire but also of seriousness and compassion." --Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
1914. In a hotel room in German East Africa, American farmer Walter Smith dreams of Theodore Roosevelt. As he sleeps, a railway passenger swats at flies, regretting her decision to return to the Dark Continent--and to her husband. On a faraway English riverbank, a jealous Felix Cobb watches his brother swim, and curses his sister-in-law-to-be. And in the background of the
world's daily chatter: rumors of an Anglo-German conflict, the likes of which no one has ever seen.
In An Ice-Cream War, William Boyd brilliantly evokes the private dramas of a generation upswept by the winds of war. After his German neighbor burns his crops--with an apology and a smile--Walter Smith takes up arms on behalf of Great Britain. And when Felix's brother marches off to defend British East Africa, he pursues, against his better judgment, a forbidden love affair. As the sons of the world match wits and weapons on a continent thousands of miles from home, desperation makes bedfellows of enemies and traitors of friends and family. By turns comic and quietly wise, An Ice-Cream War deftly renders lives capsized by violence, chance, and the irrepressible human capacity for love.
"Funny, assured, and cleanly, expansively told, a seriocomic romp. Boyd gives us studies of people caught in the side pockets of calamity and dramatizes their plights with humor, detail and grit." --Harper's
"Boyd has crafted a quiet, seamless prose in which story and characters flow effortlessly out of a fertile imagination. . . . The reader emerges deeply moved." --Newsday
up, and said with absurd formality, “Would you mind if I took a breath of fresh air?” Venables moved his seat to let him get by. Outside, the streets were busy. Motor cars tooted warnings as they reached the sharp bend in the road to the left of the hotel. A barefoot boy, wheeling a costermonger’s barrow full of cabbages, whistled loudly as he trundled his load along the pavement, turning down an alleyway to the hotel kitchens. Felix stood on the little gravelled forecourt in front of the hotel,
topping her up.” He jerked the lanyard on the motor and with a clatter the engine started up again. “Bastard,” Cyril addressed the shuddering unit. The lights flickered and went on. He turned to Felix. “How are you then, Felix? Looking forward to this wedding, then, are you?” “Well, I suppose so. I haven’t met my future sister-in-law yet. She’s not long back from India. Cigarette?” “Thanks. Don’t mind if I do.” Cyril wiped his hands on his trouser seat before accepting one. He looked at it.
fixed polite smile on his face. The congregation was small, composed largely of family, local acquaintances and dignitaries and, on the bride’s side, a solitary aunt from Bristol, a small, plump, cheerful-looking person. Charis was being given away by an old friend of the Cobb family, Dr. Venables. Ever since breakfast Felix had felt he was going to be sick. And once again saliva flowed into his mouth and he had to make a severe effort to prevent his stomach from heaving. He looked down towards
Europe.” Although Smith couldn’t have understood it, it was clear he hadn’t mistaken her tone, as he spoke up in her defence. “I do believe coloured glasses are almost dee-rigger these days,” he said. “I see many people in Nairobi wearing them. Why, the Uganda Railway has coloured glass in the windows of their passenger carriages.” “There you are, Erich,” she said, her eyes narrowed. “You have been on your farm too long.” Von Bishop grunted sceptically. The atmosphere in the compartment was
from a seam on her glove. The end of the war. It seemed an appalling nemesis, not a moment for rejoicing. How could she live with both Gabriel and Felix at Stackpole? She knew instinctively and confidently that this current state of affairs would never have arisen if Gabriel had been present. Felix had once implied as much to her, joking that in the beginning he had resented her for stealing Gabriel’s affections away. Felix would have to leave—that was all there was for it, she told herself,