Claire Messud introduces a debut novelist with a respected literary reputation.
In The Emperor of Ice-Cream, we are introduced to Lucia. Now in
her eighties, this daughter of Italian immigrants looks back on her
youth spent in Scotland during the 1920s and 30s. She remembers her
three brothers, Dario, Giulio and Emilio, and the very different ways
they lived through these decades: the eldest establishes the Edinburgh
Fascist club, the second sets up a luxurious ice-cream parlor, the
youngest hones his verbal skills for a future as a poet. Lucia learns
what it is to be an immigrant and to wonder where 'home' is; she
encounters religious sectarianism, idealism, and disillusionment. She
experiences passion, hope, and disappointment.
When she falls in love in Rome, it appears that happiness is Lucia's for the asking, until unstoppable forces intervene—in both of her countries. With mounting tension, her tale leads through the rise of Fascism to the terrible moment in June 1940 when Mussolini declares war, and British Italians are interned. When hundreds are herded as 'enemy aliens' onto a ship bound for exile, among their number are two of her brothers. Determined to tell their story before it is too late, Lucia gives an account of one of the most shameful episodes in Britain’s Second World War.
Through his portrayal of Lucia's singular vision and voice, Dan Gunn has created an unforgettable character who, while registering the buffets of history, is—just possibly—writing herself toward some overdue inner peace.
Dan Gunn is a professor of comparative literature and English at the American University of Paris, where he is also the director of the Center for Writers and Translators. He writes regularly for the Times Literary Supplement and is editor of the chapbooks collectively entitled The Cahiers Series (Sylph Editions).