The Ice Cream Makers

In his bestseller 'Mama Tandoori', Ernest van der Kwast painted a vivid and hilari­ous portrait of an immigrant family. 'The Ice Cream Makers' is every bit as enter­taining while tapping into a deeper seam of emotion. It is a delightful and sensual tale of poetry, love, family ties and the art of ice cream making.

Ernest van der Kwast
Original title
De ijsmakers

Van der Kwast’s fourth novel centres on the Talamini family, the embodiment of generations of Italian ice cream makers. Every spring they make the journey from their home in Northern Italy to their ice cream parlour in Rotterdam, returning to their fatherland in the winter. Eldest son Giovanni goes against the grain; instead of entering the family business, he decides to pursue a literary career. This has far-reach­ing consequences for the entire family.

While Giovanni travels the world as a poetry-festival programmer, his brother Luca takes up the family business with Sophia, a beauty who has been the object of both brothers’ affections from an early age. Luca feels abandoned by Giovanni and refuses to speak to him for twelve years. When he breaks the silence it is to make a dramatic request. He is infertile and demands that Giovanni fathers a child with Sophia, on condition that he tells no one. The result is Giuseppe, a boy who would rather listen to poetry than operate an ice cream machine. When Giuseppe suddenly decides to head out into the big wide world, the family tradition seems to have ended for ever.

The Ice Cream Makers describes the fate of two brothers whose lives are bound up together, both of whom have made sacri­fices on their chosen paths: the family man who slaves away all day over an ice cream machine and the lonely poetry lover who is only permitted to be an uncle to his own son.

The Ice Cream Makers is a rewarding novel. A second reading reveals just how perceptively it pits family pressures against the desire for freedom down the genera-tions. The contrast between Giovanni’s world of high culture and that of his ice cream making brother Luca is cleverly realised. Van der Kwast leaves the reader in no doubt as to who the real poet is: the ice cream maker, of course.

NRC Handelsblad

The narrative is richly laced with incisive accounts of poetry festivals and anecdotes, some mythical, about ice cream making. Van der Kwast’s tone is infectious, whether he is dealing with first-time happiness, parenthood or missed opportunities.

A line of poetry by Patrick Lane, a favourite of Giovanni’s, resonates through the book: ‘What do you do with the parts of yourself you have lost?’ This sets a melan­choly undertone to the novel’s otherwise light-hearted style. The result is a wonder­ful mix of flavours worthy of master ice cream maker Luca.

It is an ode to poetry and to women. A tale of the tradition of ice cream making and the price it exacts. But above all, The Ice Cream Makers is a book that sweeps you along like an avalanche.

Noordhollands Dagblad
Ernest van der Kwast
Ernest van der Kwast (b. 1981, Bombay) published his first book in 2005 and had his breakthrough with the novel 'Mama Tandoori' (2010), which went on to become a bestseller in both the Netherlands and Italy.
Part ofFiction
Share page