Pages - 209
Republished by Picador in 2011 (an imprint of Pan Macmillan)
'We left a tip and the waitress shot us what I suppose was intended to be a look of gratitude. She really only managed a weak glare. I guess that's the countryside for you. People are a little edgy'. A young inquisitive girl hitches a lift with an older charismatic Bohemian man. Neither has a final destination in mind, and so they find themselves drifting aimlessly through middle America; driving, smoking, sharing confidences, looking out for each other, and stopping as and when the mood takes them. Their relationship is pure, simple - and when they do finally have sex, it's she who makes the first move. But this is a strange, stolen time that must come to an end: the girl will grow up; the man's past will catch up with him; and the world outside will not accept their relationship. With shades of Lolita and Morvern Callar, "The Ice Age" is a remarkable first novel, with an exceptional voice that's both seductive and compelling, and which readers will quite simply fall in love with.
I was a bit wary to read this book at first when I realised how young the girl was in the book. I do struggle with the Lolita scenario and that is probably due to being a mum. The book is told from the point of view of the young girl, whose name we never discover. Right from the start it is obvious that she is extremely attracted to her older travelling companion, Gunther, and is the one doing all the chasing. She does practically throw herself at Gunther, who resists for a period of time until he can resist no longer. As the book progresses, you become aware that he feels guilty about how their friendship developed into a sexual relationship. He has a conscience and is uncomfortable with how much older he is than her and struggles to see anything right in the developments. He is a wanderer who does not want to be tied down and seems to find her affection stifling after awhile. I never once viewed him as a dirty old man and found his conduct to be quite gentlemanly at times. He obviously cared for her and by the end he went out of his way to put her on the right road to a better future. He didn't want her to settle for someone like him. Yet she was in the throws of her first love and with that, obsession can take place. She cannot see any of his faults, to her he is the love of her life and one she will never forget. Her love for him is all consuming and leads her into dangerous situations.
I found this to be a thoughtful read which made me reminisce my own experience of first love. The book is beautifully written and comes from the heart. This young girl is opening up her emotions for everyone to read. At times the words were sad and poignant, as she suffers under the full weight of her feelings.
The road trip takes her on a coming of age journey. She began as an innocent young girl and ended it still young, but a lot wiser about love, relationships and sex. The road trip also took their relationship in full circle, as they moved back into the friendship mode as they neared the end. At times, the book was rather brutal and I found myself a little emotional. She really does suffer through lack of knowledge in this book.
If you are looking for a fast paced ride, then don't look here, as this book is a slow journey, where you watch both characters slowly evolve over a period of time and change in their situation.
My only niggles with this book were that throughout the road trip, there is no mention about how Gunther paid for all the hotels and restaurants along the way and I couldn't work out how he managed to pay for everything. Also we never find out the girl's name or where she came from. On both counts, it really is the author's choice, but I would have like a little bit more information.
If you like your coming of age fiction real and emotional, then you will enjoy this book. A quiet read with some painful scenes that will stay with you when you finish reading it.