Northern Mummy

General thoughts and wittering about all sorts of things

The Ice Cream Girls

on November 20, 2010

A few weeks ago, I read The Ice Cream Girls by Dorothy Koomson.  I hadn’t intended to read it, in fact I’d never even heard of Dorothy Koomson until very recently when I started seeing tweets about her from people like Between the Sheets.  Anyway, I was in Sainsbury’s when I noticed that they had the new Sebastian Faulks which is our next reading group books, and it was on a 2 for £7 offer so I chose The Ice Cream Girls as my second book.

The first thing I really have to say is that the cover belies the content.   When I lent the book to my Dad afterwards (or really more foisted it on him telling him he must read it!), he said: “I don’t normally read books with pink and yellow on!”  It does look much lighter than it turns out to be, and having not read anything else by her I can’t comment on whether or not this is typical of her or whether the book was bound in keeping with her usual style.  I couldn’t really say that it looks like your average chick-lit cover either, with the picture of the two girls arms, one white, one black, side by side along with a glimpse of the pastel coloured dresses they are wearing (which, it transpires, relates to a significant passage in the book).

Anything I say about it from here on in will fail to do it justice because it’s one of those novels which I know will stay with me for the rest of my life.  The narrative is shared by Serena and Poppy, two women in their late 30s who, as teenagers, were drawn into a strange and complicated relationship with Marcus, an older man who had been Serena’s English teacher.  Eventually Marcus ended up stabbed to death and the girls, whose photographs had been discovered at the dead man’s house, were accused of his murder.  The story is told twenty years later as a mixture of flashback and present-day narrative about the way the two women now live their lives and the effect their experiences have had on them.

What I found interesting was the way in which Koomson details how each girl comes to be in a relationship with Marcus and how, although they understand that what is taking place is first inappropriate and eventually downright wrong, they are unable for a long time to extricate themselves from the situation.  It is so common to hear people say that victims of domestic abuse should leave their abuser, contact the police, seek help, etc but this novel goes some way to explaining why that isn’t always possible.

To say I totally loved the book would sound strange when the subject matter is so brutal and disturbing but it’s an issue which is very close to my heart for one reason and another, and I thought that Koomson dealt so well with it.  The only thing that I didn’t completely like was the choice of narrator for the final chapter, which to my mind didn’t sit completely comfortably with the rest of the book.  The conundrum which plays on the central characters’ minds throughout the book is solved for the benefit of the reader, which I think I am glad about although in another way it would have been more fitting never to have known, so I can’t quite make up my mind about it.  However it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book and I have recommended it to just about everyone I know since then!

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