11 June 2011

The Empress of Ice Cream (Anthony Capella)

Available at all good bookstores, courtesy of Penguin Books South Africa, and on www.kalahari.net.

For my money, Anthony Capella is the master of literary deliciousness. Firstly, because he writes books about food. Okay, centred on food. And the people who produce it, eat it and love-make with it. And secondly, because his characters, plots, and colour are utterly yummy. (If a leetle simplistic and one-dimensional.)

In this, his fourth novel, following in the lip-smacking footsteps of The Food of Love, The Wedding Officer and The Various Flavours of Coffee (one of my favourites), Carlo Demirco is the dashing Italian confectioner-to-the-king who rises from nothingness to be vaunted by the French and English courts.

What does he confection? Cream ice. Or rather, ice cream. [There was a bit of Italian-to-English translation confusion, you see, and the term 'ice cream' was born.]

In short, Signor Demirco is the god of creating smooth, sultry, addictive ice cream in fruity, herby and other flavours I'd never even considered, let alone heard of (pippin, rose petal, celery, hibiscus, basil, maidenhair fern, black pepper, fig, cardamom, lavender - yum!), and his icy masterpieces, together with their exquisite and whimsical presentation, become the talk of two royal towns.

Along the way, Carlo meets Louise de Keroualle, an impoverished yet beautiful lady-in-waiting, and the two become friends, enemies and then allies as strangers to England and to the awkward English way of doing things. This is when the novel becomes largely Philippa Gregory-ish in its orientation... And this is when I really start to enjoy it. Because there's only so much ice cream I can dream about.

[The novel is narrated in the first person by both Carlo and Louise - not a beloved device of mine. But it works in this story. Especially since Louise is a lot like Mary Boleyn in The Other Boleyn Girl...]

So, if you're into novels focused on food, and you like historical fiction, and you're not looking for complexity, disturbia or major drama, get yourself a bowl, a spoon and this book. Bon appetit.


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