Ice by Anna Kavan was my suggestion. So many bloggers I know have read and loved it, not least Kaggsy, who reviewed recentish reissues of it for Shiny New Books here. First published in 1967, this novella has become an uncategorisable cult classic. There’s a hint of dystopia about it, there’s a hint of cli-fi as ice is gradually covering the world after some unmentioned disaster. However, at its heart is one man’s obsession for a girl (always a girl, never a woman) he once had that now belongs to others. There are just four main characters, the girl, the narrator, her possessive artist husband and later the Warden. The narrator seems to have some power of negotiation with the regime at first, but his prize, the pale and ethereal woman remains out of his touch and he can’t let go.
There isn’t much more plot, instead we have so many surreal dream sequences it’s often difficult to know what’s what. In one chapter, they are in a black car, the next moment the man is strangling a polar bear. There are references to Madagascan Indris (related to lemurs, right) that Kavan got from an early David Attenborough documentary apparently which seem rather out of place. It’s often hard to tell what’s real in this freezing, grey world and what’s not. Kavan had struggled with heroin addiction and mental health issues for years and the stream of consciousness feel to this waking nightmare would seem to echo from that.
I admit, I really struggled to get into this novella, and gave up around page 40, just skimming the end to see what resolution there was. I disliked all of the characters intensely, even the woman, who although treated as a chattel and sexual object, was haughty and dismissive and maybe complicit in her awful predicament. Most of the group did read the entire novel, and could see how it had become a cult classic. In the surreality of Ice, there are some undeniably fine metaphors, but unsophisticate that I am, I needed more story and less vagueness. (DNF)
Anna Kavan, Ice (Penguin Classics, 2017) Paperback, 182 pages. BUY at Blackwell’s via affiliate link (free UK P&P)
Our Book Group Year
The last time we were able to meet in person was in February, thereafter we’ve moved to zoom, which has worked pretty well. It was in Feb though that we decided to start going through the alphabet, having gone through a couple of years of mostly key-word choices. We choose our books 2 months ahead, and pitch our picks into the proverbial hat, and unless one stands out, we pick by random number. You can see everything we’ve read since 2004 in my Book Group Page above. We always pick our best reads from our year of reading, and if you ignore the personal favourites, Guy Gunaratne got our vote as most appreciated new read, with Celeste Ng coming close. Both books generated a great discussion. We actually enjoyed and had good discussions for most of our 2020 reads with one or more members of the group liking most titles.
J: Classic: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte – I failed – didn’t read beyond a few pages, and the audiobook sent me to sleep!
F: Hidden Gem: A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines – Review
M: Pam’s Choice: In the Woods by Tana French – Review
A: “A” is for…: Ackroyd, Peter – Dan Leno & the Limehouse Golem – Review
M: “B” is for…: Becoming by Michelle Obama – Review
J: “C” is for…: Celeste Ng – Little Fires Everywhere – Review
J: “D” is for…: Dune by Frank Herbert – Review
A: “E” is for…: Eric Ambler – The Mask of Dimitrios – my previous review
S: “F” is for… : Foley, Lucy – The Guest List – didn’t have time to read
O: “G” is for…: Guy Gunaratne – In Our Mad and Furious City – my previous review
N:”H” is for…: Harris, Robert – Archangel – Review
D: “I’ is for...: Ice – Anna Kavan – see above
We’ll be picking our “L” is for … book to discuss in March in the New Year. Do you have any good suggestions? What have been good discussion generating books for your book groups this year?