HarperCollins £12.99stg

After reading this book, it can only be said that if the Americans can sell anything, they will. Weightman chronicles the development of the ice trade in New England from the early 1800s. It's an extraordinary story about the growth of a most unlikely industry.

Weightman tells the remarkable tale of Boston merchant Frederic Tudor's attempts to ship cargoes of ice from New England lakes to tropical climates such as India, Cuba and Australia. This was a feat no one had attempted before and Tudor often met with scorn and ridicule. Hardly anyone believed that such a venture could succeed and for several years Tudor struggled to make ends meet. He was declared bankrupt, imprisoned for debt and often had to flee his native Boston in the dead of night to escape his creditors.

Perseverance was perhaps his salvation as he refused to abandon the ice trade. Partnership with a young hotel owner, Nathaniel Wyeth, enabled him to perfect his methods of cutting and storing ice. The trade made him rich. Soon, he had competitors in the business and he was often ruthless in his removal of these 'interlopers'. He had pioneered a now respectable trade which had become an industry in itself and continued to grow into the Twentieth Century. It even precipitated the development of the modern refrigerator.

The ice industry epitomised the American Dream. Weightman creates a vivid picture of the birth, development and ultimate demise of an industry whose determination and entrepreneurial spirit helped make America great, as they say.

Well worth a read for a piece of interesting forgotten history.

Katie Moten