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The Ice-Cream Makers: A Novel Hardcover – August 1, 2017
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“[A] moving story of how sacrifices accumulate in the wake of passions left unfulfilled.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Van der Kwast tells his multigenerational tale with great sensitivity, demonstrating through powerful observations the long-term effect of one person's decision upon others throughout the generations. A delightful read; smooth as ice cream on a hot summer day.” (Kirkus Reviews)
"Ernest van der Kwast tells about love between man and woman, about love between two brothers, and about the moment when both vanish. Sensuous, heartfelt, deliciously beautiful." (Brigitte magazine)
‘Style, timing, and a flair for language: Van der Kwast is one of the best!’ (Vrij Nederland)
About the Author
Ernest van der Kwast is a Dutch author whose novel Mama Tandoori was an international bestseller.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
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There is a contention that ice cream did not originate from Italy. There is a claim that it actually came from China. But Giuseppe Talamini would absolutely oppose that. He thinks that Marco Polo did not actually go to China and brought ice cream making as one of the discoveries from the east with him. Giuseppe believes that his grandfather discovered ice cream. Ice-cream making is his way of life and the business will pass on to his sons and his sons' future sons.
This is a story about a family whose business and way of life is centered upon making delicious and creamy delights of multi-flavored ice cream. Yum! As it appears, ice-cream making is not as sweet as the concoction. It requires back-breaking dedication and a skill for turning fruits and flavors into heady and addicting combinations that will keep the customers coming back for more. As it turned out, not all ice-cream makers want to be ice-cream makers. Like in this story, Giuseppe, had no choice but to follow in his father's footsteps and take over the family business. He wanted to be an inventor. Someone who can create things. He is fond of tinkering and just making things, even if they do not have any specific purpose. But he has to forgo that dream and had to continue the family legacy of churning ice and fruits into mouth-watering gelato. And like Giuseppe, his first-born did not also want to be an ice-cream maker. Giovanni wants to be a poet and he became one, even to the cost of being estranged from the family. The second son, Luca, like his father was also forced to take over the family business because there is no one else. Luca's son is more curious on poetry rather than ice-cream making. Does ice-cream making and the business of the Talamini's end with Luca?
I think the story is very realistic. Even though it centers on ice-cream, the dilemma of who's going to takeover the family business passed down through generations is also a question for some of the businesses today. It explores the reality between following one's dream or to get trapped in continuing the family legacy. I definitely could not relate to this since we do not have any family business but a similar question had been asked of me. When I was younger, whenever I was asked what would I like to be, my answer was always something else other than being a teacher. In our family, on my mother's side, the women are all teachers, even some men are teachers and the rest of the men are all seamen (marine engineers, nautical people like captains). Only a few deviate from these professions mentioned above. It was like a default that you too should be a teacher but I did not want to be one. I wanted to be different. In some way, this is like in the story but I think it was easier for me to not follow the rest of my relatives compared to Giovanni or Luca. With my choice, no one is adversely affected. There is no family legacy that is going to be lost or a source of income or business that is going to close up. Giovanni and Luca's dilemma is more serious than mine. And if I were in the Talamini brothers' shoes, I would definitely think a million times before deciding not to continue with being an ice-cream maker and pursue my own dream. The decision weighs a lot because it does not only mean letting down your family but also losing what has been built by sweat and blood by your ancestors, if no one else is going to takeover the business. And what about what I want? This was exactly what Giovanni had to go through. In the end, he followed his heart. But it did not mean that he was not assaulted by guilt every time he sees his brother and father. His heart bleeds every time. If only he can be both at the same time. So, I can totally understand why he can't seem to say no to his brother when he ask him a very special favor and not just once. It felt like it was his way of making up for his choice.
I give the book 3/5 cones of ice cream. It was a good enough story but I think it was too long. There were parts that just rumbled on that were not so essential. Though throughout the book, the feeling of melancholy is very evident. You will feel the hardship and the labors suffered by Giuseppe, Giovanni and Luca churning and churning ice cream. It felt like your hands had calloused too just by witnessing Luca experimenting with new flavors of ice cream. The emotions in the story are very strong, it's probably the reason why the author kept the story on and on and can't decide when he has to end it. I understood that the feelings invoked by the story are hard to let go. You want to basked in it yet you know you will get tired of it. Yes, you will think this is a sweet story as delicious as ice cream but it is far from it. In fact, it is full of bitterness and regrets. And Giovanni, he may have followed what he wanted and is doing what he loves--writing and working for poetry, but he is far from happy. This story is an example that we can't have everything we want but we make do and sometimes we pretend that we are happy doing these things, though we are just painstakingly and hardly getting by.
You can make them come back, the years and the people. But I doubt if the miracle will repeat itself.
- Ernest van der Kwast, The Ice-cream Makers -
Thank you again, Netgalley for the copy.
This is a voluntary review. I was gifted a copy.
This is the story of one Italian family, bedded in the mores and traditions of the Dolomites, who create wonderful recipes for commercial ice cream.
Way back when, in the Autumn/Winter time the menfolk would set out on foot from Venas Di Cadore (near Cortina d’Ampezzo) to walk to Vienna (imagine! That’s well over 500km and easily a three week walk away) to sell locally collected Italian chestnuts. It was in the Austrian capital that an ice cream machine was spotted and Giuseppe Talamini was soon lugging the equipment back to his home village. It took a while to create and master the recipes but he persevered. Ice had to be collected from the glaciers and transported back to the village, dripping as it melted, to feed the rotating ice-cream drum. Giuseppe experimented with mouth-watering flavours, honed the balance of ingredients and soon he had the local populace asking for more. A family business was successfully established!
Through the generations the Talamini family set up their Summer shop in Rotterdam and now the current generation is due to take over the concern. Luca soon gets stuck in but brother Giovanni has his heart set elsewhere, a literary career focussed on poetry beckons. For him “a life without poetry was a life less lived”.
This is as much as story about ice cream as about family and brotherly love, splintered by internecine upset. Both brothers set their eye on Sophia, but it is Luca with whom she makes her life. Theirs, however, is a troubled marriage. The pressure of bearing a child mounts, yet the years pass, no child appears and soon Sophia is sinking into depression. How can the brothers reconcile, how can the tradition of ice cream making continue in the family…???
If you are after a sensory and emotional journey with the odd scoop of lemon sage or orange or vanilla or cherry ice cream to help you on your way, then do choose this book. It occasionally meanders off course, but soon comes back to a being a satisfying and interesting read. All credit to the translator Laura Vroomen.
The Ice-Cream Makers is set in both Rotterdam and Northern Italy and is the multi-generational story of the Talamini family and their ice-creaming making dynasty.
It centres around two brothers; Giovanni, the oldest who decides to branch out from tradition and lead a life filled with words, festivals, travel, and independence; And Luca the youngest who does what is expected and continues the family business of making ice cream like his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather did before him.
The prose is rich and sophisticated. The characters are unique, diligent, and authentic. And the story is ultimately about family, sacrifice, responsibility, guilt, tradition, love, poetry, and ice cream.
Overall the Ice-Cream Makers is a well written, fascinating story that reminds us that family legacies can often be a blessing and a curse, that the choices we make often have far-reaching consequences, and that ice cream is the result of mouth-watering ingredients, a complex process, and a lot of hard work.