e a m harris

Roaming the byways of literature

Archive for the tag “First World War”

30 Day Book Challenge – day 7: a book I found hard to read

Since I tend to abandon books I find hard and then forget them, I really had to search my memory to do today’s challenge.

1The book I came up with was An Ice-Cream War by William Boyd.

I remembered it because I read it fairly recently, and I actually finished it because it was a book group choice and I always read those.

It’s a historical novel based on real events during the First World War:

As millions are slaughtered on the Western Front, a ridiculous and little-reported campaign is being waged in East Africa – a war they continued after the Armistice because no one told them to stop.

It’s a highly thought of book, short listed for the Booker; so why did I find it difficult to read? I think the reasons are personal to me and no reflection on Mr Boyd’s skills as a novelist.

War is one of my least favourite subjects: I just don’t care who was fighting who and why, and I particularly don’t care about the details of battles. And any descriptions too graphic will get skipped as I don’t like reading about someone else’s pain endured over something as silly as war.

Africa in the early 20th century is not an intersection of time and place that I’ve ever thought about, and being shown it only in crisis made it difficult to understand and relate to.

Also I found it difficult to empathise with the characters – I simply couldn’t get interested in them.

This has not stopped me reading other Boyd books, nor would it stop me recommending this one to people interested in the period or subject.


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