Monday, March 31, 2014

An Ice Cream War

An Ice Cream War
© 1982 William Boyd
408 pages

Although most of the action of the Great War took place in Europe, it spread throughout the world wherever Europe's nations had allies or colonies. An Ice Cream War is a novel of the first world war set in southern Africa, with the battles between British and German colonial forces serving as background for all of the plot threads, and the active component of many. Its principle characters include an English farmer who is displaced and ruined by his German next-door neighbor, for whom the war becomes a personal vendetta, as well as two brothers who come of age as a result of the war and its human cost.  Its title not withstanding, An Ice Cream War is a tragedy with some comic elements.  Both the comedy and tragedy stem from the same root source, the vagaries of fate. Life is unpredictable enough without the chaos of war, but amid it the characters can only respond in absurd ways. The bewildered mirth is overrun by sorrow and horror later in the book, as it waxes depressing. An Ice Cream War can be considered an anti-war book, given that a main character is an ardent pacifist until he joins the Army to flee heartbreak, but only meets more sorrow as he realizes that the war is just a pointless and obscene in fact as he long held it in theory.  An Ice Cream War features an interesting and extravagantly detailed setting, but is definitely on the despairing side by the end.

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