What’s it all about?:
At fifteen, Daisy, confident and cherished, is appalled to hear that Ruth’s father locked her in the old garden ice house as a childhood punishment: no wonder her friend shelters in make believe. The revelation of that primitive cruelty cements a friendship in which protection plays no small part. Years later, middle aged, they remain close friends and live on the same street. So when Daisy’s husband dies suddenly, Ruth’s discovery that the marriage was unhappy is the first stage in the unravelling of the certainties she has wrapped around her adult life. Friendship, love, marriage and, above all, the scorching effects of adultery, come under the microscope in this dextrous novel. Journeying from a terrifying suburban household to its unexpected conclusion in the Egyptian Pharaoh’s tombs, The Ice House is startling, tragic and humorous by turns.
What did I think?:
This is the story of two friends, Daisy who is confident, alluring and popular, and her friend Ruth, who is quieter, and a slightly mysterious child with an aura of sadness which Daisy cannot quite understand. As children, Daisy is never invited to her friends house, and always wonders why until the one time she is invited and everything about Ruth’s character slots into place and makes sense. As adults, they both appear to be happily married, until Daisy’s husband is killed in a horrific accident one night. Ruth finds her friend’s reaction to her husband’s death peculiar and shocking, as she assumed they were happy. Slowly, secrets come tumbling out and Ruth finds herself looking to her own life, marriage, and happiness and asking questions that she may not want the answers to.
This is the first Nina Bawden novel I have read as an adult, she is also famed for her brilliant children’s novels, amongst them Carrie’s War and The Peppermint Pig which I remember vividly from my childhood, so I was looking forward to exploring her adult fiction, and wasn’t disappointed. The Ice House is a very simple, but at the same time an incredibly complex novel about human interactions – friendship, love and marriage, and the darker side of these relationships. Not many of the characters in it are instantly likeable nor do we warm to many as the story continues, although I had a slight soft spot for Ruth. For me however, that is the sign of a good book – if we dislike a character that much then hasn’t the author done their job?
I have to admit, I did know what was going on from the start, it appeared obvious but I’m not sure if this was meant by the author. This did not spoil my enjoyment of the novel though, as I just loved her writing style, and the sense of intimacy I got from it. It was almost like the author and I were two friends watching the drama unfold, while being privy to all the insider gossip and secrets. I do agree with those reviewers that it was a slightly anti-climatic ending however, which was a shame, as the author had completely carried my attention until then. But I can’t wait to read more!
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):