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An Ice-Cream War by William Boyd

An Ice-Cream War (original 1982; edition 1999)

by William Boyd

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Title:An Ice-Cream War
Authors:William Boyd
Info:Vintage International (1999), Paperback, 408 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Fiction - Literary

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An Ice-Cream War by William Boyd (1982)

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WWI was fought not only in Europe but also in East Africa, especially between the British and the German armies. This Anglo-German war provides the backdrop for the intertwining drama in the lives of an American, a pair of English brothers and a German couple.

Boyd's strength in this historical fiction is the satirical humor he manages to inject in what are some very horrific and tragic situations brought upon by the war. ( )
  cameling | Apr 1, 2014 |
This was my first book by William Boyd and it has immediately won him a place on my favorite author’s list. An Ice Cream War is a beautifully written story that delves into a corner of World War I of which very little has been written. Set in Tanzania, Kenya and England, the story follows a number of people of various nationalities whose lives are impacted by the war and who, during the course of the book, come to share unique connections with each other.

I found this a wonderfully readable story, both dark and humorous at times. The portions of the book that were set in England introduced one of the most dysfunctional families I have read about in some time. The American and German were both farmers and neighbours that were destined to end up on opposite sides, but they also shared in the stifled coldness of their marriages. One had a wife who never raised her head out of a book, while the other escaped both literally and mentally to her home in Germany. So many excellent characters were scattered throughout this book, including the unforgettable Wheech-Browning, a upper class British dolt whose appearance always brought disaster to someone.

An Ice Cream War is an excellent mix of satire, humor, pathos and great story telling. Both the multiple plot lines and the well developed characters made this a five star read for me. I am so glad that I have finally picked up a book by this author and I look forward to discovering more of his works. ( )
6 vote DeltaQueen50 | Sep 14, 2013 |
Not necessarily bad, but just odd really. ( )
  Helenliz | Mar 31, 2013 |
Dans la tradition des humoristes anglais Evelyn Waugh ou Saki, Boyd passe la vitesse supérieure de foudroyante manière. Le sujet s'y prête : rien moins que la Première Guerre mondiale, sommet d'horreur absurde, plus absurde encore observée dans ces réserves naturelles de grands bizarres que constituaient les colonies allemandes et anglaises d'Afrique-Orientale, de part et d'autre du Kilimandjaro. Ni le pittoresque ni le sarcasme ne manquent au rendez-vous. Ni la fougue ni l'art de tricoter les fils du destin. Boyd sait mettre en relief le pire et le dérisoire, exhibe les plaies de la bêtise, y jette une pincée de sel. Un brio implacable.
  PierreYvesMERCIER | Feb 19, 2012 |
This novel is the story of war as it was fought in British East Africa and German East Africa during World War I. There is a wide range of well-developed characters, including German and British farmers who had been close and friendly neighbors before the war.

Boyd is a very good writer and story-teller. The pacing is excellent, as he moves seamlessly among the various characters and settings, and the book was a Booker Prize finalist. I'm not sure the novel adds anything new about the horrors of war, but it does show the conflict in a place we don't often think about. It also shows how overconfident the British were when they spoke of this as an "ice cream war," by which I suppose they meant it would be a piece of cake to destroy the Germans in East Africa.

The New York Times review states that the book "fulfills the ambition of the historical novel at its best." I agree that we learn some history, but I read this primarily as a character-driven novel. Recommended. ( )
  arubabookwoman | Jan 12, 2012 |
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'What do you think would happen,' Colonel Theodore Roosevelt asked his son Kermit, 'if I shot an elephant in the balls?'
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375705023, Paperback)

"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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:36 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Primarily a gripping story of the men and women swept up by the passions of love and battle, William Boyd's magnificently entertaining novel also elicits the cruel futility and tragedy of it all.

(summary from another edition)

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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