I’ve always loved Capella’s books. I read them when we were in London, and mostly while traveling by tube. His books would transport me from crowded tubes to magical Italy and its delicious cuisine. I suspect that some of the food that I tried was a direct effect of reading some of his other books.
I realized that it has been a rather long time since I read Capella, when I read this review on TGND’s blog. And since some of the best books I have read have been recommended by her, it just had to go on my list. It wasn’t available in my library in India, and neither did I get it in Blossoms in Bangalore, but luckily enough, I got hold of it in my library here.
Carlos DiMarco is a young boy, working with an ices maker in Florence. He runs away from Florence, when he realizes that he was a slave to his master, and not an apprentice. He takes his skill and trade secrets to France. Very quickly he becomes a favorite of King Louis XIV. Not only are his ices extremely popular in the court, he becomes a favorite among the ladies of the court. The only lady who refuses to thaw is the young Louise de Keroualle, lady in waiting to Henrietta d’Orleans, the sister of the King of England, Charles. She had been Henrietta’s confidante when suddenly Henrietta dies, plunging Louise into a precarious position. Louse came from an impoverished, but illustrious family. Those days in France, just being from a good family was not enough, you needed to have the money too, to attract a good marriage. Louise’s family had no way of providing her of a good dowry, and so she had no control over her future. The King could decide for her, and she would have to go with his wishes. Before too long, both Louise and Carlo found themselves making their way to England for very different purposes. Louise was intended as a mistress for Charles, and Carlo’s skill as a confectioner was a gift from the French Court to the grieving king.
While Louise is involved with the courtly matters, Carlo is busy perfecting his art. At that point in time, England did not have ice houses, which managed to keep ice from melting. Carlo’s expertise helped them create the right sort of storage for ice. And of course, Carlo learnt a thing or two from his English counterparts too. His ices are already legendary, but he strives for perfection, he is trying to make the perfectly textured, smooth ice cream. The book charts the life of Louise and Carlo, with the evolution of ice cream.
It is a fascinating read, blending historical facts with fiction as perfectly as Carlo blended the flavours in his ice cream. Although. I have to say, that I did miss the mouth-watering descriptions of food that his books normally have. Somehow the descriptions of the ice cream did not have the same effect on me, but that might be because I like Italian food more than I like ice cream, but the historical fiction part was intriguing enough to keep me engrossed.. It was as good as any of the Philippa Gregory books. The whole intrigue and machinations of courtly life is so vivid. The power play that courts were renowned for, where love, and affection are very low in priority.
Carlo’s passion for his craft, makes interesting reading. His experimentation, the way he plays around with ingredients. Who would have thought that the ice cream that we grab from the shelves of a supermarket, would have taken so much effort to get to where it has. I particularly liked Nell Gwyne’s character, although she is not really a prominent character in the book, but I liked her spirit, from whatever was mentioned in the book.
As usual, the book had me looking up the history of the time to get a better grip on what was happening, politically, and how much of all this was fiction. It was fascinating to read more about Louise de Keroualle. Apparently she is also an ancestor of Diana, Princess of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
I would definitely recommend this book, if you like historical fiction. And if you want to read a proper review before deciding, go check out TGND’s review, she convinces you to read it!