Book Group Report: “I” is for Ice by Anna Kavan & 2020 wrap-up

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 GolemReview
M: “B” is for…: Becoming by Michelle Obama – Review
J: “C” is for…: Celeste Ng – Little Fires EverywhereReview
J: “D” is for…: Dune by Frank Herbert – Review
A: “E” is for…: Eric Ambler – The Mask of Dimitriosmy 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 Citymy previous review
N:”H” is for…: Harris, Robert – ArchangelReview
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?

8 thoughts on “Book Group Report: “I” is for Ice by Anna Kavan & 2020 wrap-up

  1. kaggsysbookishramblings says:

    Oh dear…. So sorry you didn’t like this Annabel, though it *would* be dull if we all liked the same thing. Don’t know if there is a limit on book size for your club, but an L book I love is Lanark!

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      Oh Karen, I’m sorry, I’ve tried Gray and didn’t like him, so I won’t be suggesting Lanark! Someone else might though 😀 I will keep my copy of Ice in case I am more in the mood for it.

  2. Laura says:

    My Year of Meats generated some great book group discussion! I wish the group had voted for Mr Loverman recently as I think that would have been a brilliant one to discuss, but they chose Seeing Red instead. I really didn’t like Little Fires Everywhere (though I’m enjoying the TV series much more) but I can see why it was a good book group pick.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I’ll bear the Oseki in mind for when we get to M for Meats or O. Really enjoyed the TV series of Little Fires too.

  3. Rebecca Foster says:

    My group has had some of our most successful reads this year (Notes from an Exhibition by Gale and The Wife by Wolitzer), but also some of our least — there were some middling books, and then I didn’t finish Then We Came to the End by Ferris for this past month. I don’t get on particularly well with Zoom, so I don’t know if I’m going to stay the course with book club until we can meet up in person again 🙁

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      We’re down to a core of 6 on zoom, but have a good discussion. We’ve done well with Gale before, I must try to remember the Wolitzer/Wife for when we get to W!

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