“As teenagers, Poppy Carlisle and Serena Gorringe were the only witnesses to a tragic event. Amid heated public debate, the two seemingly glamorous teens were dubbed ‘the Ice Cream Girls’ by the press and were dealt with by the courts. Years later, having led very different lives, Poppy is keen to set the record straight about what really happened, while Serena wants no one in her present to find out about her past. But some secrets will not stay buried – and if theirs is revealed everything will become a living hell all over again…”
‘The Ice Cream Girls’ is Dorothy Koomson’s sixth novel and to fully immerse myself in the story I chose a beautiful sunny morning to wander down to Brighton pier, the setting of the book, set up a deck chair and indulge in some literary escapism. With seagulls cawing and swooping round my head, the smell of candy floss flooding my nostrils the hubbub of families hitting the arcades it was hard to imagine how such a lively and innocent setting could harbor a story filled with betrayal, punishment and manipulation.
The story flits between the viewpoints of Serena and Poppy both in the past and present tense. This runs the risk of being incredibly confusing to the reader but actually it is a very clever literary technique used by Koomson to help create suspense. Slowly but surely more and more information is drip fed to the reader allowing us to take on the role of private detective and make up our own mind and assumptions about what may have happened.
Koomson takes on the issue of domestic violence and controversially inserts it into the realm of childhood offering a thought provoking and gritty read. In an interview in the Independent Koomson says,”When I wrote The Ice Cream Girls I wanted to tell the story of two ordinary girls and how anyone can become embroiled in an abusive relationship. I wanted people to understand the nature of abuse and that it wasn’t all about violence, a lot involves emotional manipulation.”
Although at times the subject matter left me cringing and not wanting to know more it was strangely addictive and ‘unputdownable’. It became imperative that I found out the truth. I also found it strange how my allegiance to the two key characters, Poppy and Serena, changed so much throughout the story as I learnt more about their personalities.
I finished the book the same day that I started, it was that good. With stall holders closing shutters, a cool breeze blowing across the sea and the the whistle from a cleaner clearing up the remnants of a dropped ice cream cone, the pier began to look different to me than it had that morning. Slightly more chilling, slightly more dark and with a haunting reminder that things are not always what they seem.
The book was made into a TV series in early 2013 and attracted viewing figures of almost 5 million.
Next months book: ‘Are we nearly there yet?‘