Book Review: ‘Little Ice Cream Boy’ by Jacques Pauw

Book Title: Little Ice Cream Boy

Author: Jacques Pauw

Genre: Realism

Summary: A graphic, violent novel that explores the brutality of the underworld in South Africa during the end of the apartheid. Told from the perspective of an ex-policeman turned criminal (though the line between the two is thin), Gideon Goosen is serving multiple life sentences and has been convicted for homicide, robbery, drugs, and a list of crimes that barely scratch the surface of his activities since turning to a life of gangs and crime. Based around the life of Ferdi Barnard, it is the first fiction book by the award-winning journalist Jacques Pauw.

Favourite Scene: Choosing a favourite scene from this novel is hard, not because I don’t have one but because every possible scene from which you might choose is equally violent and terrifying. Perhaps because of its symbolism to the protagonist and perhaps because it is one of the more innocent and sweet scenes in the novel, I love the scene when Gideon’s mother tells Charmaine why he is called her “little ice cream boy”.

Favourite Character: Again, choosing a favourite is terrifying! Gideon is so well written that, at times, I felt it easy to sympathise with him while simultaneously wanting to run and hide from his exploits. With a cast of prostitutes, drug addicts, murderers, and everything in between, choosing a “favourite” is shudder-inducing. I really felt for Pieter, Gideon’s younger brother, and the complete misfit that he was in a family of chauvinists.

Review:  Little Ice Cream Boy is a positively brutal novel. I found myself both horrified and fascinated by the narrative; as my stomach twisted into knots my brain whirred with the language and characters that leapt from the page. I learnt more about South Africa reading this novel than I’ve ever learnt from the media or history lessons. It is undeniably well-written and brilliantly constructed, though the language and depictions are not for the faint-hearted. My cheeks flushed red and my eyes widened during some chapters, and I openly gasped and felt repulsed by others. Very much a novel for those who can overlook violence, language and seedy settings to find characters who are detailed and “real”. This is not a novel for children, nor is it a novel to give your mother for her birthday (though I did find this book on my mother’s bookshelf).

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