(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Two themes underlie The Ice Age: the struggle between God and Mammon, and Great Britain’s changing social and urban geography beginning in the 1950’s. Anthony Keating is torn between religion and materialism. As an undergraduate and later in television, he rejects his family’s religious views, but he retains their belief that education, arts, and politics are the most worthy spheres of activity. He becomes increasingly dissatisfied with his life, however, wondering if it is pointless and awakening in the night to ask, “What is it? What is what?” Alienated from work and society, Anthony was ready to embrace a new creed: “A political creed, but there wasn’t one; a religious creed, but he had had God, along with his father and life in the cathedral close. So what would happen to the vacant space in Anthony Keating? What would occupy it?” The answer was Len Wincobank; the conversion happened in 1968. Anthony threw himself into property development heart and soul.

After the property market collapse, Anthony wonders whether his work is valuable. (In contrast, Len Wincobank and Maureen Kirby, remembering their childhood working-class privations, enjoy the prosperity before 1973 and find survival strategies afterward.) He returns to his home in the cathedral close when his father dies and reexamines the cathedral and the old values for which it stands, but is unable to accept them. Instead, he floats unmoored until he agrees to run errands for the...

(The entire section is 603 words.)