Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “An Ice-Cream War” as Want to Read:
An Ice-Cream War
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

An Ice-Cream War

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  1,682 ratings  ·  92 reviews
"Rich in character and incident, An Ice-Cream War fulfills the ambition of the historical novel at its best."
--The New York Times Book Review

Booker Prize Finalist

"Boyd has more than fulfilled the bright promise of [his] first novel. . . . He is capable not only of some very funny satire but also of seriousness and compassion."--Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

1914. In
ebook, 416 pages
Published February 16th 2011 by Vintage (first published 1982)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about An Ice-Cream War, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about An Ice-Cream War

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,896)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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 ...more
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 ...more

An Ice Cream War
1982 William Boyd
408 pages

Although most of the action of the Great War took place in Europe, it spread throughout the world wherever Europe's nations had allies or colonies. An Ice Cream War is a novel of the first world war set in southern Africa, with the battles between British and German colonial forces serving as background for all of the plot threads, and the active component of many. Its principle characters include an English farmer who is displaced and ruined by his Ger
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 ...more
A highly emotive book, chock-full of of black humour and complex characters.

I think William Boyd is one of my favourite authors. He writes completely wonderfully, believably flawed, darkly humorous characters. I would call him a Dickens of the 20th/21st Century, but that would suggest that I had actually ever read any Dickens.

This book follows the Cobb brothers and their experiences in WW1. Gabriel is the admired older brother who turns out to be a bit of a wet blanket whilst Felix is the feckle
WWI was fought not only in Europe but also in East Africa, especially between the British and the German armies. This Anglo-German war provides the backdrop for the intertwining drama in the lives of an American, a pair of English brothers and a German couple.

Boyd's strength in this historical fiction is the satirical humor he manages to inject in what are some very horrific and tragic situations brought upon by the war.
Great book about two brothers and their experiences during the first world war, and the seemingly forgotten exsistence of the war in Africa. I've only read 2 books set in this place and time, African Queen and this, stacked against those set in Europe at the same time. The title of the book also has meaning, a war which everyone seems to think would melt away like ice-cream.
Felt sorry for Gabriel, the older brother who seems younger, more trusting than Felix. It's also Felix who the book seems t
An Ice Cream War is the story of American, German, and British lives in the little-known East African theater of World War I. As indicated by the book title, the British expected the campaign to be a joke. The action takes place mostly in the European colonies of East Africa and England between 1914 and 1919. Some of the characters expect war, and some doubt it will occur, but none of the characters have any idea how devastating the war will be to everyone, even those far from the battlefield.

For some reason, despite being a huge fan of William Boyd's writing for going on twenty years, I'd never gotten around to reading this -- his second published novel -- until this week. I suppose it's kind of a delayed gratification thing, with Boyd I know I'm going to be in the hands of an able storyteller whose sure plotting and smooth prose is going to be a pleasure.

The titular war is the faceoff between British and German troops in their colonial possessions in East Africa (present-day Kenya
Martin Boyle
How to put this? A book about misunderstandings, of failures of communication is perhaps the underlying theme of this greatly enjoyable read.

Almost from the start are the two-way failures of understanding, of empathy, and these keep recurring through the novel - sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, sometimes catastrophic.

And through the novel runs a theme of an irrational desire for revenge at any price. I could not help thinking of the Glasgow Ice-cream Wars and kept wondering whether Boyd had
Mark Speed
One of Boyd's earlier novels, from a better time when he would choose an historical period, research it and then populate it with well-drawn characters.

The setting is East Africa during WWI, with the opening shots of the war played out between two rival farmers who had been friends and neighbours up until the declaration. Other characters join the fray from Europe, and bungling military decisions mix with human emotions to produce a rich story. There's a wealth of marvellous detail here, played
Sal Littlejohn
Apr 12, 2014 Sal Littlejohn rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
I found this book very enjoyable. It manages to combine some very comic, grotesque characters and incidents with a great deal of tenderness and insight. In fact, probably, war is like that - full of contradictions. There are plans that go stupidly wrong, love affairs doomed to fail, unlikely passions driving people to strange, crazy actions, people not knowing what the heck's going on and why. The writer manages to steer a course among all these disparate and apparently incompatible moods and si ...more
Tracy Terry
'Contrasts the fortunes of those languishing at home with those fighting abroad'. Jumping around between 'home' (England) and 'abroad' (East Africa) often with large gaps between where we left off that aspect of the story to re-joining it I'm afraid for me the narrative just didn't flow well.

Despite their obsession with genitals and frank sexual talk I much preferred the 'home' episodes spent with the Cobb family, brothers Felix and Gabriel, and their wonderfully dreadful father, Major Cobb (po
Nick Brett
A very talented author, but this is not one of his best. It’s not a bad book in the least, just average when compared to the high standards set by many of his other books.
This has the setting of the First World war in Africa where in the fierce heat, the British are surprised that the European conflict has spread to the African continent. Against this setting William Boyd presents a range of characters through which we can experience some of the events and conflict and we have a perspective from
Boyd at his accomplished best. Able to transport the reader effortlessly into ostensibly unpromising territory (East Africa? 1914-18?) and bring his large cast of disparate characters absorbingly alive. This epic story has it all - a chaotic and pointless war, meandering adventure, travelogue, family, frustrated love and shocking loss. Boyd seamlessly intermingles episodes of romance, drama and thriller with dark comedy, punctuated with moments of delirious farce reminiscent of Tom Sharpe. I esp ...more
When I read the short review, I was expecting something different. I found the novel amusing as well as really capturing some of the triviality that leads to conflict. The title was fully justified. I like Boyd's style and his characters, I could picture with all their foibles, imagined slights and unjustified airs and graces. I liked the relationships. They were seeded with trouble even where some were perhaps cameos designed to represent a type.

Some stories disappoint when they come to little,
I love this author. I love his writing. This is historical fiction at it's best. East Africa...early 1900's...couldn't be better.
An Ice Cream War by William Boyd is set in East Africa and England - with an occasional excursion to the Indian Sub-Continent - prior to and during the First World War. It is not a novel primarily about the war, nor does it focus on its African landscape, though the context and setting do significantly contribute throughout. An Ice Cream War is a novel about people and about how their interrelationships are disrupted or destroyed by a conflict that is not of their making. It’s also a novel about ...more
Jayne Charles
An entertaining and occasionally laugh out loud account of warfare in East Africa during WWI. As with many of William Boyd's books, the reader has to pick the plot out from the very dense background detail and though the writing is of a consistently high standard, it can be difficult at times. It certainly took me a while to get into this novel - but once the 'egregious' Cobb family made their appearance, the entertainment level certainly moved up a notch or two.

Events alternate between the far
Spoilers ahead. Looking back at it I think the writer wanted to show the real effects of war on normal people. Nobody gets what they want, if you don't die you know somebody who does and things just arn't fair. The end is especially sad when one brother dies needlessly, right before he could have been rescued and the other brother is denied his revenge when a man dies of the flu, before the revenge can take place.

The main characters were; Two English brothers, one had a wife. An American with a
russell barnes
William Boyd does do good stories, doesn't he?

While the ghosts of Black Mischief, Catch-22 and Heart of the Matter lurk in the background (if you ignore the historical settings) An Ice-Cream War is bursting with Boyd's usual cynicism and wit, which fairly crackles for 300-odd pages.

Having gloried in the riot of the dysfunctional Cobb family life and surreal sites of jungle warfare, I found the ending strangely underwhelming - no blubbing this time ala Any Human Heart. However Boyd does rather sp
Blaine DeSantis
What a wonderful book. I give it about a 4.5. Lately I seemed to have been picking up a lot of books and novels that deal with WW1. And "An Ice-Cream War" certainly did not disappoint.

A wonderful story that looks at the lives of 2 families, and the senseless destruction from a war that just supposed to melt away by Christmas. It did not happen, and the suffering of so many people are vividly brought to the forefront in this book.

What makes the book unique is its setting, which mostly is in East
Thoroughly enjoyed this book, a little heavy on the romance but Boyd is a fantastic writer. I found the setting in 'darkest' Africa completely intriguing. Boyd's insight into the way of life for a Westerner on the African continent is excellent. He also delivers a refreshing comic angle to his characters which is enjoyable. He creates rivalries and conflicts between leading individuals who humorously curse each other in a light hearted way which is amusing. The frustrations for Felix, the surviv ...more
Andy Weston
It was my last Boyd novel to read, and certainly one of the best.

To me they seem to fit into 3 categories: the fun ones (Armadillo, Good Man In Africa), the semi-serious (Restless, Ordinary Thunderstorms and Brazzaville Beach), and the top (New Confessions, Any Human Heart and this). just here will the new Bond fit in I wonder? My guess is middle.

This rating doesn't mean I haven't enjoyed them any differently - just the frame if mind he us in when he writes I think. Common themes of spies, Afri
The setting & events Sort of took me to a state of "behind the scenes" of war... A war that very little know of.

It's amazing how a war affects the lives of not only those involved in the actual battlefield but also those far off from it. A war does re-write a history of a whole nation and the history of almost every individual within the range of the war climate...
I enjoyed the language use and here are some of my favorite lines from the novel
-"It is far too hot for sustained fighting, he s
In case you're not sufficiently weighed down with the idea of WWI's just being one miscalculation-resulting-in-untold-death after another, then it's time to read An Ice-Cream War! An East African war fought to draw resources from the main theater more than any other reason; soldiers observing courteous, pre-war agreements to provide plenty of advance notice before any belligerent hostility; troops dying after years of war in which they never actually saw fighting, just shuffling of supplies and ...more
Lucie Novak
THis book about First World War in AFrica was not only a good novel, but it also told me things I did not know. I liked the descriptions of the rapid change of relations between the German and English neighbours when the war starts.
Well written, interesting subject.
Kathleen Wells
I havent read any books by William Boyd before and have heard good things. This book was enjoyable nicely threading the stories together about a topic I wasnt aware of before - WW1 in East Africa. I look forward to reading another book of his.
Bernadette Robinson
This was quite a wordy story at times. It's set during World War I and if it wasn't one of my Library Reading Group reads, I doubt that I'd have picked it up.

I felt that the writer did the story justice and told the story in a sympathetic way that explored the dilemmas and stress that those at home and at war must have been under. It was a very thought provoking read, it wasn't a light hearted read at all and times was quite graphic in the telling of certain atrocities that happened to the chara
This was pretty boring, though it did improve in the second half. It tells the story of WWI in the East African colonies, through the eyes of some not very compelling, though sometimes sympathetic, characters. It wasn't terrible but I don't recommend it. I barely bothered to finish it. It was shortlisted for the Booker - what could the prize committee have been thinking? Amazingly, after having read Brazzaville Beach, Restless, some of A Good Man in Africa (also didn't like), and this one, I con ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 96 97 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Confederates
  • Master Georgie
  • Three Soldiers
  • The Soldier's Art (A Dance to the Music of Time, #8)
  • The Ship
  • Williwaw
  • Death of a Hero
  • Pascali's Island
  • Daughters Of The House
  • Fair Stood the Wind for France
  • Jake's Thing
  • South Wind
  • Bomber
  • Day
  • Covenant with Death
  • The Colour of Blood
  • Goshawk Squadron
  • The Redundancy of Courage
Of Scottish descent, Boyd was born in Accra, Ghana on 7th March, 1952 and spent much of his early life there and in Nigeria where his mother was a teacher and his father, a doctor. Boyd was in Nigeria during the Biafran War, the brutal secessionist conflict which ran from 1967 to 1970 and it had a profound effect on him.

At the age of nine years he attended Gordonstoun school, in Moray, Scotland an
More about William Boyd...
Restless Any Human Heart Waiting for Sunrise Ordinary Thunderstorms Brazzaville Beach

Share This Book