Iceberg is the definitive apocalyptic feel-good novel from Paul Kavanagh, the mind that bludgeoned readers with The Killing of a Bank Manager. Iceberg centres around Don and Phoebe, a naïve yet loveable couple from the north of England who happen to win an iceberg. Read on as Don and Phoebe rush across Europe, Africa and Antarctica in search of their prize. Will Don and Phoebe make it? Where is humanity heading? No, honestly, where is humanity heading with all the technology and celebrities in a world where everything now seems possible but nothing really is? Just a few light-hearted questions that Iceberg doesn't attempt to answer. Part travel book, part black comedy, this three-part tale will amuse and inspire readers to take up arms, against themselves.
Journey from “grim northern twin” to iceberg with Phoebe and Don. Taking in the meaning of life, the universe and the destiny of planet earth in the process. And packed in to a little over 100 pages rather than the industry standard 250. Beautifully written with love in every page. Thank you Honest Publishing! And thank you Strong Words mag for the tip!
January. Skint, dieting, and with livers that have seen better days, most humans heed their natural instincts and retreat to their newly de-tinselled dwellings, to prepare for hibernation. But what books are needed to guide us through this barren, comedown of a month, void of stilton and sherry? Comfort reads seem no longer palatable, like that last wedge of plum pudding congealing in brandy sauce. Instead, the search is on for something to wake the brain from its festive stupor, to cut through the schmaltz and lead us into the new year feeling refreshed. A literary Bloody Mary, if you will. I started 2014 with Paul Kavanagh's 'Iceberg', and his precise, wry prose did not disappoint. Part modern folk tale, part travelogue, part critique on consumerist culture, this story is hard to pin down to one genre or theme. As the characters themselves comment, 'God I only hope they are not comparing us to Adam and Eve ... that would be rather boring and simple'. The novel follows Don and Phoebe, a couple defeated by the daily grind of poverty, violence and boredom. Fearing 'inertia, stagnancy and death', they recklessly plot to escape their wicked landlord and desolate Northern town, to seek a more meaningful life in ... Antarctica. Although their destination is an Iceberg Phoebe won in a lottery scam, the bulk of this short novel is about what happens along the way - from the banal; popping blisters and eeking out dry cheese sandwiches - to the philosophical; kaleidoscopes as a route to higher consciousness, familial ties, ecological responsibility. Kavanagh doesn't pull any punches describing his characters, poor Phoebe and Don's every petty thought and flaws are exposed. But we find ourselves sympathising with them because, 'Love may do a lot of things, but love cannot put money in the pocket, it cannot transport two middle-aged failures a thousand and some miles... It cannot make the sun shine'. When they reach their paradise iceberg, where the sun does shine and they don't need money because the sea provides (from champagne to fur coats) the couple transform, and there are some genuinely touching passages detailing their euphoria. 'Life had unclogged their ears, removed the curtains from their eyes, uncemented their nostrils'. Kavanagh's novel leaves us with many thoughts to ponder without overreaching his characters' capacity for change. In fact, the semi apocalyptic ending seems strangely secondary, as the tourists and journalists who greet them at the end of their journey, like the couple themselves, remain unchanged. Well, at least Phoebe feels a bit more cheerful. As do I.
I absolutely hated this at the start, but it grew on me the more I read. The way it's written is...interesting.
'He could feel the sea, but he could not see the sea. A heavy fog lay above the sea. The fog was thick and reached up to the sky. The swell of the sea made him sick.'
What saved this for me was the travel aspect. I love travelling, and so I put up with the writing style to see Phoebe and Don travel from the north of England down through Europe and Africa, and eventually to their iceberg. Unfortunately though, a very large chunk of the travel was cut out. We follow every detail of their journey up to a certain point halfway down Africa, and then it cuts suddenly to the iceberg. This disappointed me, since it was the only reason I was reading!
The ending confused me, it became too surreal too quickly. The beginning of the book is very real in a lot of ways, set in council estates with awful landlords, even the journey is realistic as well. Basically, it doesn't feel like a ridiculous fantasy novel - and then the end happens. The story changes from a reasonably believable travel novel to crazy nonsense. Seriously, the author might as well have had aliens turn up at the end, that is how ridiculous it gets in the last few pages.
I originally got this on my Kindle because of the good reviews and the fact that it's free. Fortunately here, the phrase "you get what you pay for" does't hold. Iceberg tells the story of Don and Phoebe, two two people trapped in a miserable place and desperate to get out. They embark on a journey of both body and mind not knowing what to expect at the end. To me this felt like a more lighthearted version of Kerouac's "On the Road" (and I mean that in a good way). Overall this is a nice little story that is well worth the short time it takes to read.
A very, very surreal apocalypse that starts off in a future that closely resembles 80s Britain, and becomes the tale of a couple building a new eden on a drifting iceberg. Fascinating and lyrical, well worth a read.