The Emperor of Ice-cream

14 Apr

The Emperor of Ice-Cream This book is a gem in more ways than one. Embarking on the Mooreathon with Lizzy, I wanted to read all of the books on offer. This one is the most expensive to buy used. And used is the only way you can get it. So, not wanting to spend £10 or more on a copy from 1987, I ended up with an old musty copy from 1970. The price in the U.K. is listed as 5/-. I have lived in the UK a long time, but I don’t know what that means. Helpfully, there’s also (25p) listed. It was 80c in Australia, 75c in New Zealand, and 60c in South Africa. But I digress.

The title of this book refers to a poem of the same name by Wallace Stevens. There are a few lines of that poem quoted within the book, but if, like me, it doesn’t make much sense to you, don’t worry. Moore may have wanted to make some sort of statement with that reference, but if he did it’s lost on me, and there’s plenty more that I do understand.

The Emperor of Ice-cream is mostly a story about a young man named Gavin. He’s bored with school. He doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life and is at the point where he needs to make decisions about it. He thinks his parents don’t understand him, and he’s not sure he likes them much. Pretty much every 17 year old in the land, but there is never a dull moment for the reader. Gavin is flawlessly presented, along with his dual alter-ego black angel / white angel. But it’s not only Gavin who is portrayed so well. We get insight into the personalities of many other characters. How does Moore do it, in only 190 pages?

In short, this book is near perfect. The end ties together a bit too neatly if you take it too literally, so I decided not to.

I highly recommend this book. It’s up there with Judith Hearne. In fact, I think it’s surpassed it; high praise indeed.

5 red stars


3 responses to “The Emperor of Ice-cream

  1. John Self

    April 14, 2008 at 10:06 am

    Great stuff Colette. I’m glad I’m not alone in finding this up at the top of Moore’s achievements.

    5/- means 5 shillings. Before money in the UK was decimalised (in 1971?), prices were expressed in pounds, shillings and pence. There were 12 pence in a shilling and 20 shillings in a pound (so 240 pence in a pound). So yes, 5 shillings would be the equivalent of 25p, ie a quarter of a pound. I am guessing the cover had the price expressed in both formats as decimalisation was imminent in 1970 when your copy was published.

  2. colettejones

    April 14, 2008 at 10:43 am

    Yikes. I would have to agree that decimalisation was necessary!

  3. lizzysiddal

    April 26, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    It is now two months since I read the book and the reason why this review is so delayed is that I’m disappointed that it’s not joining the list of my 5-star reads. On the back of the your review, Colette, I came to The Emperor of Ice-Cream with the highest of expectations, completely and utterly expecting myself to be blown away. It didn’t happen, which is not to say that it isn’t an excellent read. I think I was expecting something to grab me in the same way as The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne . I don’t currently have much empathy with adolescent male leads – and the stupidity of this one made my blood boil in places. (Interesting that this novel is the most autobiographical of Moore’s output – suggesting that while I admire the author, I wouldn’t have got on with the man?) But while I was alienated from the personal drama, I was fascinated by the historical, completely amazed at the mindset that couldn’t wait for the second world war to hit Belfast. And didn’t it just, when the Luftwaffe got its sights in! I realise the foregoing sounds rather ambivalent but let me stress that The Emperor of Ice-Cream is still a 4-star read and far superior to much contemporary fiction. I agree with John Self that it is a travesty that it is out of print. Here’s hoping that Faber will find it and republish ..


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