An Ice-cream War PDF á An Ice-cream Epub /


An Ice-cream War An African TragicomedyLet s face it a terrible title for a rather good book The subject is WW1 as fought in Africa between the colonies of British East Africa roughly Kenya and German East Africa roughly Tanzania the war that forms the background to C S Forester s novelThe African Queenand the Bogart Hepburn movie made from it, but is otherwise not much written about Compared to the carnage in Flanders, it was a minor front, but far from being the walkover envisioned by a soldier An African TragicomedyLet s face it a terrible title for a rather good book The subject is WW1 as fought in Africa between the colonies of British East Africa roughly Kenya and German East Africa roughly Tanzania the war that forms the background to C S Forester s novelThe African Queenand the Bogart Hepburn movie made from it, but is otherwise not much written about Compared to the carnage in Flanders, it was a minor front, but far from being the walkover envisioned by a soldier writing home in 1914, quoting his commanding officer It is far too hot for sustained fighting, he says we will all melt like ice cream in the sun Such overconfidence led to the first British defeat in the war, when they landed forces from India to capture the port of Tanga This might have succeeded, has they not thought itchivalrous to give the town twenty four hours warning first Their return a day later was met by such a combination of accident, miscommunication, and coincidence that it might have been pure comedy, but for the hundreds of soldiers left dead or wounded.The tragicomedy of the real Battle of Tanga sets the tone for Boyd s entire novel, his second, published in 1982 Giles Foden, whose brief introduction to the 2010 Penguin edition gave me most of the ideas for this review, sees Boyd as pivotal in the development of a particularly British tradition I have myself noticed a certain style of British writing about war and world events, setting them against the normality of nice upper middle class values domestic social comedy as the matrix for horror You can see it as early as E M Forster sA Passage to Indiayou can see it in theThe Sword of Honour Trilogyby Evelyn Waugh, which is the clear godparent to this book you can see it in Anthony Powell and J G Farrell and for some reason it has broken out again in the most recent novels by Sebastian Faulks, Simon Mawer, Ian McEwan, Kate Atkinson, and Boyd himself As with several of the authors mentioned, it made me underestimate the book at first, settling into familiar comfort food territory But, as with only the best of them, I found myself revising my opinion upwards by the end.Boyd, who was born in Africa, knows the country well Much of the action is set around Mount Kilimanjaro, but the setting is never used merely for picturesque ends Nor is there any emphasis on the Africans themselves this is colonial not postcolonial literature He opens with two settlers, an American sisal farmer called Temple Smith and a half English German reserve officer called Erich von Bishop they begin as neighbors but end on different sides The English anchor for Boyd s story is Stackpole in Kent, the home of the irascible retired Major Cobb and his family Gabriel Cobb, the elder son, is already a captain in the army he has been posted in India, but has come home to get married Felix, his younger brother, half child, half adult, and still unsure of himself, is about to go up to Oxford both will eventually join the fighting in East Africa Sexual desire, confusion, and guilt play a significant part in the development of each of woefully inexperienced brothers, and even in Africa not all decisions will be guided by the necessities of war alone.Very much in the manner of Waugh, there are several characters who are pure comedy My favorite is a Scottish sergeant named Gilzean pronounced, I suspect, Gullane who speaks in a nearly incomprehensible dialect You ll find we re unco fremt haufins out here Add to him a preposterous English district officer called Wheech Browning, and the manic Major Bilderbeck who always seems to have some secret knowledge that makes him valuable to HQ Yet both these figures have a particular knack for causing death around them And they are real deaths The thing that finally sets Boyd apart from Waugh is that fiascoes have serious consequences Just when you are laughing the loudest, something terrible happens, and not only to minor characters either And that is war The First World War has been explored in fiction on many occasions, but William Boyd s An Ice Cream War focuses on a largely forgotten front the battle for East Africa.Both Germany and Britain had neighbouring colonies there, and the conflict also sucked in territory that at time was ruled by Belgium and Portugal.This was not the industrialised mass conflict of the European fronts, and the initial skirmishes in Boyd s novel verge on the farcical.But nevertheless there is danger and death here The First World War has been explored in fiction on many occasions, but William Boyd s An Ice Cream War focuses on a largely forgotten front the battle for East Africa.Both Germany and Britain had neighbouring colonies there, and the conflict also sucked in territory that at time was ruled by Belgium and Portugal.This was not the industrialised mass conflict of the European fronts, and the initial skirmishes in Boyd s novel verge on the farcical.But nevertheless there is danger and death here as Boyd s characters discover.Much like the European war though there is an air of pointlessness to the battles, and a sense that neither side really knows what they are trying to achieve.At the centre of the novel are two brothers We meet them initially in England as war threatens Gabriel Cobb is already in the military and soon finds himself posted to East Africa His younger brother Felix is at Oxford, but as the conflict heats up, he eventually signs up to head to Africa on a very personal mission.Alongside the brothers, we also meet Temple Smith, an American ex pat running a sisal farm in the British colony War is an inconvenience to him initially, but after his farm is wrecked by occupying forces, he joins the conflict to pursue revenge.His target is Erich Von Bishop, half British, but signed up for the German forces, emphasising the close links there actually were between families that could have fought on either side.Eventually these stories collide as An Ice Cream War reaches its conclusion.As ever Boyd is a master storyteller, drawing you in, and keeping you engaged from start to finish There is scope for comedy as well as drama in the farcical nature of the African campaign it isn t his strongest work The Smith and Von Bishop sub plot perhaps works less well than the Cobb brothers storyline, and occasionally he struggles with the balance of tone between comedy and drama.There is no space for any indigenous African characters too, with the focus entirely on the colonisers.But there is still plenty to enjoy in An Ice Cream War, and it certainly casts a light on a World War One front that has been largely forgotten A study in colonial idiocy that takes place during World War 1 The title itself is barely relevant as it is only mentioned in passing in a prologue, where Africa is said to be too hot for war, and we will all melt like ice cream in the sun Several lives intersect here the families of Temple Smith and Erich von Bishop, English and German homesteaders whose farms are on the border between British and German East Africa, and two brothers, Felix and Gabriel Cobb, belonging to a militaristic fa A study in colonial idiocy that takes place during World War 1 The title itself is barely relevant as it is only mentioned in passing in a prologue, where Africa is said to be too hot for war, and we will all melt like ice cream in the sun Several lives intersect here the families of Temple Smith and Erich von Bishop, English and German homesteaders whose farms are on the border between British and German East Africa, and two brothers, Felix and Gabriel Cobb, belonging to a militaristic family in South East England The humour is a bit laboured as befits a novel set in the period, though Boyd is very good at conjuring up the era s styles, prejudices, inhibitions and conversation.This is definitely a black comedy, fun to read, but it didn t really hold my interest Maybe Boyd is a bit of an acquired taste What a strange book this is I picked it up because after Lila I thought it d be nice to read something light, a comedy in this case, about a bunch of half mad Englishmen in East Africa during the First World War That s how ignorant I can get It is light in the same way that say, The Beatles Blue Album is light that it s certainly no didactic, that it s lively and frisky and that action and response, not vague morality, means everything And it s so well made, so well executed, continuo What a strange book this is I picked it up because after Lila I thought it d be nice to read something light, a comedy in this case, about a bunch of half mad Englishmen in East Africa during the First World War That s how ignorant I can get It is light in the same way that say, The Beatles Blue Album is light that it s certainly no didactic, that it s lively and frisky and that action and response, not vague morality, means everything And it s so well made, so well executed, continuously inventive, and self assured that you probably won t be able to treat it lightly It s a very funny book, refreshingly politically incorrect, about a small bunch of flawed people, the good and the mad, English and German, but it s also a very serious book dealing with themes not only of war but of family and love too, self preseverance and the relentless sense of loss It s also quite brutal, or at least very violent occasionally It s great fun, a very memorable ride with unforgettable characters and highly recommended As a fan of Boyd s I approach an unread, older book of his with some trepidation, in case it disappoints But An Ice Cream War was one of the books that rightly made his early reputation and is a better novel than the comic A Good Man in Africa, which is clever but much less subtle It takes a while to get into this second novel but the effort is worth it The novel is best when it shifts its setting exclusively to East Africa, and there develops a complex plot with a surprising and clever twist As a fan of Boyd s I approach an unread, older book of his with some trepidation, in case it disappoints But An Ice Cream War was one of the books that rightly made his early reputation and is a better novel than the comic A Good Man in Africa, which is clever but much less subtle It takes a while to get into this second novel but the effort is worth it The novel is best when it shifts its setting exclusively to East Africa, and there develops a complex plot with a surprising and clever twist It successfully to me evokes the absurdity of war and how much one s chances of survival depend on luck which is in short supply to the characters here Also, it conjures several interwoven stories of friendships and requited and unrequited love affairs that are a product of war time and are convincingly depicted I suspect, without knowing it, that the novel has its basis in the real histoy of this backwater conflict that took place as part of the 1914 18 war and which even continued after the main show had ended It s an excellent story and shows the talent which Boyd deployed to even greater effect in his masterpiece, Any Human Heart This historical novel set in Tanzania, Kenya and the UK during WW I, is darkly humorous and beautifully detailed The focus is on a group of people whose own lives and plans are spun into disarray by the war and its consequences Von Bishop enjoys farming in German East Africa, but his wife, Liesl, longs to return to Germany Across the border, the American, Walter, cares about little in life by his farm, his sisal decorticator, and his future agricultural plans In England, the Cobb family drif This historical novel set in Tanzania, Kenya and the UK during WW I, is darkly humorous and beautifully detailed The focus is on a group of people whose own lives and plans are spun into disarray by the war and its consequences Von Bishop enjoys farming in German East Africa, but his wife, Liesl, longs to return to Germany Across the border, the American, Walter, cares about little in life by his farm, his sisal decorticator, and his future agricultural plans In England, the Cobb family drifts in the moral and intellectual haze of the 1920s, absorbed in family squabbles International forces, however, drag each family out of their normal path and into a confusion of life, death and love The writing is beautifully descriptive, portraying the individuals as unregarded pawns who are incapable of making sense of larger historical forces sweeping over them Boyd s book is largely character driven There are, honestly speaking, no African characters in the book at all While one can certainly argue that using a large and obviously relevant group of people merely as a backdrop may seem strange, I appreciate that Boyd focuses on the characters whose story he is telling This, in my opinion, is preferable to tacking on a modern view of the world through some sensitive character who will understand the natives as is so often done in contemporary historical novels An Ice Cream War is William Boyd s sparkling debut novel on the grimly comic side of conflict, published as a Penguin Essential for the first time What do you think would happen if I shot an elephant in the balls I think it would hurt a great deal Millions die on the Western Front but in East Africa a quite different war is being waged one with little point and which is so ignored that it will carry on after the Armistice because no one bothers to tell both sides to stop As the conflict sweeps up natives and colonials, so those left at home and those fighting abroad find themselves unable to escape the tide of history bearing down on them My favourite Boyd among many great books.I felt the breath of my adversary on the back of my neck as I metaphorically ran for my life.As a successor to Graham Greene I rate Boyd very highly This one from William Boyd is set in Africa during the First World War and is interesting from an historical point of view as I certainly didn t know much, if anything, about the war there The characters are well drawn and the description is very good, as in all Boyd s books The story is well told and I did enjoy it, although war and soldiers is not really my thing So much for the jazzy title Like all Boyd s books, this over promises and under delivers.Listen If you re going to take the haunting phrase we shall all melt in the heat from an actual soldier s letter and stamp it on the first page of the book like an omen, at least make the book about heat About the melting of morals and of wills in the desert About the viscous boil of the East African theatre in contrast to the sopping icy trenches of the Western Front Argh, there was so much potential So much for the jazzy title Like all Boyd s books, this over promises and under delivers.Listen If you re going to take the haunting phrase we shall all melt in the heat from an actual soldier s letter and stamp it on the first page of the book like an omen, at least make the book about heat About the melting of morals and of wills in the desert About the viscous boil of the East African theatre in contrast to the sopping icy trenches of the Western Front Argh, there was so much potential for this novel to be about place About ennui and heatstroke and slow spun metaphors of desert and action and inaction Boiling rage and absurdity It wasn t even hot for half the narrative There was too much English countryside and too much mundane description East Africa was barely conjured I have other gripes, too Like the describing of characters OH MY WORD For the first third of the novel, every time a new character appears, Boyd breaks off for a lengthy, torrid description of their physical appearance Sheer schoolboy stuff Appearance should be slipped into the action like a hot water bottle between the sheets gently warming the picture without you even realising it Give away their eye colour with a toss of the shoulders or a blazing argument convey their build with a verb I ll give you some for free stumbled , slipped , heaved See Not so hard I felt like I was back in GCSE English And, of course, sex I used to think Boyd was doing something interesting by exploring what it means for a character to be driven inexorably by lust Except that this happens in every flipping novel The characters aren t obsessed with sex Boyd is Perhaps it s a fault of war writers and thriller hacks to pile it on thick, in a desperate attempt to prove they aren t dry old military historians Sebastian Faulks, I m looking at you But it s distracting and overdone and painfully self conscious Overall no ice cream, just brain freeze


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