My knowledge of English history fades off into nothing from pretty much the end of the Civil War and my European historical knowledge from before that. In the case of the latter, I’m reasonably sure I did an A Level in something approaching that period, so I dare say I ought to! Still, one of the best things about decent historical fiction is learning more with the history hung around the necks of memorable characters and The Empress of Ice Cream was certainly an engaging read, though I have to confess it was a few weeks ago now and some details have faded.
The book centres of two characters, one an Italian maker of iced confectionery and, in the book, the inventor of ice cream and Louise Kerouaille, a French woman who became the mistress of Charles II and mother of his child, from whom, apparently, both Camilla PB and Princess Diana are descended. (Funny how things go.) The life of Louise is largely factual, from her time in the French court to her life in England, while the history of ice cream is woven into the life of one man, using the fact that two documents, one about each theme of Duchess and pudding, lay together in an archive for many years, as the device and reason for telling the two stories together.
The story is beautifully told, well paced and interesting, with plenty of the intrigue and detail of the time as well as characters who are believable and engaging. I heartily recommend it.