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The Book Of Ebenezer Le Page

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Reading the thread on The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society in the C20 forum brought to mind the only book I have ever read set in Guernsey - The Book Of Ebenezer Le Page by G.B. Edwards.

 

It is a book that has remained in my memory as an absolute delight to read, although the details of the plot are long gone. I read it getting on for 20 years ago, and have only been prevented from re-reading it by the minute print in my copy. Maybe the 2007 New York Review of Books edition is in a larger print, I must see if I can get sight of a copy as I'd love to read it again.

 

I agree with every word of the glowing reviews on Amazon - those quoted from literary journals, and the

5* reviews from Amazon reviewers.

 

Does anyone else know this book?

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Does anyone else know this book?
I've thought about buying it on numerous occasions, as each flick through has certainly seemed intriguing. But, sadly, that's all I can say on this one.

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I've thought about buying it on numerous occasions, as each flick through has certainly seemed intriguing. But, sadly, that's all I can say on this one.
I'm not sure I want you to read it, Stewart, you might not like it, and then write disparaging things about it that I wouldn't want to read :(

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Meg, the CLICK INSIDE function on Amazon shows you the print and it's not too minute.

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Meg, the CLICK INSIDE function on Amazon shows you the print and it's not too minute.

I had no trouble reading it on the screen, so if that's 'life-size' it'll do me fine.

I have added it to my Wishlist - not that anyone ever consults it, and no-one buys me books anymore because they know how many unread ones I have already :(

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Found a suitably brief synopsis amongst all the glowing reviews on Amazon.

I had to edit it slightly as it referred to Ebenezer as a man of the Channel 4 Islands :eek:

Ebenezer Le Page, a Guernsey man, tells his story. From the moment we meet him, in mid sentence, we are spellbound. He is funny and contrary with a furious, loving attachment to the past and an old man's querulousness towards the now. His is a life crammed rich with family quarrels, tragedies, and neighbouring feuds that reach across generations and between sexes. A remarkable creation, this is a hypnotic story of enduring friendships and sorrows, joys and loves, kinships and animosities, a brilliant and intricate novel - a classic.

 

Edwards has created a unique voice. In his introduction, John Fowles tells us that Edwards "...manages...despite the way characters meander almost haphazardly in and out of his pages, despite the minute stitch of social detail, to carry us through with him, at times to the point where we no longer care how inconsequential or digressive the story becomes, as long as that voice is still speaking."

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I have a problem with books about Guernsey in that I've got relatives who live over there and go out there a lot. Books that claim to be set there have me unconsciously picking through them for holes and sometimes they just don't ring true (such as Island Madness by Tim Binding). This one looks like it will pass the test from what I read on Amazon, so I might just get it.

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I had no trouble reading it on the screen, so if that's 'life-size' it'll do me fine.

I have added it to my Wishlist - not that anyone ever consults it, and no-one buys me books anymore because they know how many unread ones I have already :(

Well, well,well! Younger Son did consult my Amazon wishlist, and did buy me the book for my birthday.

Unfortunately, the print is still tiny. A little smaller than the onscreen 'look inside' view, and on slightly yellowish paper, so the contrast isn't as clear as on screen.

It will be a struggle.

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I knew this book was special the first time I read it, 20 -25 years ago. The new edition published by New York Review Books, in a larger format and sufficiently bigger print has given me the opportunity to read it again.

And it is still special.

 

The Book of Ebenezer le Page is the fictional memoir of an elderly Guernseyman, in the form of reminiscences of his life on the island from the end of the C19 to the mid 1960s

 

Ebenezer, and the older inhabitants of Guernsey speak in a patois which has many words and phrases derived from old Norman-French, but Ebenezer writes his book in Guernsey English, which uses a fairly standard English vocabulary, but has a quaint and appealing construction. Where patois is spoken in the book the sense is usually obvious from the context, but there is a short glossary at the back.

 

The book is in three parts.

Part one concerns his youth, with some glances further back to his childhood. The rambling recollections are not linear as he takes us in and out of the relationships in his life. We see most vividly the people he loves; his best friend from childhood, Jim Mahy, His cousins Horace and Raymond, their mothers - his fueding aunts, the love of his life, Liza Queripel, his sister Tabitha. There are many joyful moments, such as the Regatta when he won the leg of mutton by climbing a greasy pole for it -his proudest achievement! And dark times too, with the coming of WWI, and Jim’s disastrous marriage.

Part two is a quick run through the twenties and thirties, and concentrates mostly on Guernsey life just before and during the German Occupation. Life, never easy even in the good times, becomes grindingly hard, but Ebenezer is aware that there are others still worse off than him,and his concern for the slave-labourers brought over by the Germans eventually leads him to kill a man.

His cousin Raymond gets married, but this is marriage is also a disaster. With the examples put before him it is no wonder that Ebenezer has a jaundiced view of women and wedded life. He remains a life-long bachelor. Not that he is a saint, or averse to the company of women. More than a few local girls spent time with him “under the hedge”

 

In part three Ebenezer is even more opinionated and has become rather cantankerous. He hates what Guernsey turns into after the war. It is totally given up to the tourist industry and in particular to catering for tax exiles, and there are changes to the flower and tomato growing industry that also upset him. In his later years he has ways and means to get a little more than his due from the state, but won’t stoop to claim the old age pension.

Much of his irritability is because he wants to find someone to leave his house and secret stash of gold sovereigns to, as he has no near relatives left alive. He visits a number of distant relatives and other possible heirs, but there is always some small detail that disqualifies them (often because he doesn’t like the idea of his property passing to their next of kin). Eventually he finds someone suitable, someone who loves Guernsey as he does, who is as awkward and stubborn as he is himself, and who he can care about.

 

This Barnes and Noble review < http://tinyurl.com/y9ffqhr > does the book far more justice than I can.

I would compare it to Lark Rise To Candleford, but the honey-soaked, sugar sprinkled, nothing-like-the-book TV version would put people off.

 

It’s a bit sad when the first book you read in the year is so good that you know it will still be your best read when you get to the end of the year!

 

It’s the best I’ve read since This Thing Of Darkness - two years ago!

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Oh, i thought it sounded quite promising until the comment about Larkrise. I have a huge dislike for Larkrise to Candleford - I found the style of writing extremely irritating.

 

When you say it is like that book, do you mean as in it gives a detailed, clear image of the world in Guernesy at that time, or that it is written in the same style.... I don't know if that makes sense, but it might make all the difference in tempting me to read it - as the German occupation section interests me greatly.

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, do you mean as in it gives a detailed, clear image of the world in Guernesy at that time

 

Yes, that.

Lark Rise is about the way tight knit rural communities coped with the dramatic changes of the late C19 as shown in the life of one girl/young woman.

 

Ebenezer Le Page is about the changes in the lives of the inhabitants of a small island during the following 50 years, as shown in the life and experiences of one man and those he loves.

 

Both of them have a very strong sense of time and place.

 

Did you takea look at the Barnes and Noble review?

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Extract looks good, just like my kind of thing. Lark rise really was all to do with style of speech and turn of phrase rather than learning about a community.

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Lark rise really was all to do with style of speech and turn of phrase rather than learning about a community.
Well, it is a very long time since I read it, so all I have left is a vague memory of the impression it had on me.

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Ok, I was in Oxfam Bookshop last week and during my browsing I saw this title - remembers the thread (despite reading it months ago) and thought what the hell I'll get it! So now it is on mount TBR.

 

Will post what I thought once I get round to it (it currently sitting behind 2 library book minimum so might be a while)

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I finished this in the early hours of the morning. It's unlike any novel I've ever read before: idiosyncratic, episodic, featuring a non-stop stream of Gurnsey friends and relations who live lives of intense interdependency and where events can take an alarming turn because of this.

 

There is no plot as such. The small details of Ebenezer's life and the life of those around him constitutes the narrative arc. There is the continual interplay between Ebenezer's character, and how it controls his responses to life events, and how those events have shaped his character. You gradually understand who he is and what he stands for, whilst at the same time you get what appears to be an inside-out view of old Gurnsey. The language, as Meg has already mentioned, is delightful.

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I am about 150 pages in and quite hugely in love with this book.

 

It's like turning up in a pub, buying a pint and settling down by the fire with a truely interesting and thoughtful old man, who proceeds to tell you about his life, the people in it and the experiences they've all had.

 

It's all anecdotes of significant or non-significant events that map out this man and all he stands for.

 

And much like a beloved old friend, I can't wait to join him again and catch up with more of whats been going on.

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It's like turning up in a pub, buying a pint and settling down by the fire with a truely interesting and thoughtful old man, who proceeds to tell you about his life, the people in it and the experiences they've all had.

Beautifully put - that's exactly what it is like!

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It's going to be my Christmas Present for Vicky off my book club - she loved the Potato Peel Pie book (our last book club read) and I just think this would appeal too.

 

 

Not my copy though - that is about to become an old friend for nights when I can't sleep.

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I absolutely loved this book, thanks so much Meg for bringing it to everyone's attention. For me it was rather like the conversations I used to have with my grandfather when I was a teenager, I was never in a partcular hurry to start them but once he was launched into his stories I didn't want him to finish.

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I read Ebenezer early in January and must say I loved it ! I was lucky enough to stumble upon it on Amazon  . I immediately got hooked. It had several of the key things I enjoy in a book : crotchety old man telling his life story ,and what a story it was !  He made everything sound so interesting, even though he lived a fairly ordinary life for most of the book . He didn't have a lot of family drama and continual problems like that, he never married or raised kids, so he didn't have any of those things to tell. He never became rich or famous  , and lived in the same place his whole life. You'd think the guy wouldn't have had much to talk about ,but he certainly had an interesting gift of gab. 

The second thing that hooked me was that the story took place on an island . I love books that are set on islands ! Something so neat about living surrounded on all sides by water .

I read someplace that the book was loosely semi-autobiographical ,and that  G B Edwards was quite a Pandora's Box himself. Very secretive, stayed to himself, never seemed to want the limelight ,so to speak .

I hate to admit it to you guys, but I had no clue where Guernsey was ! I'm just a hillbilly . We have Guernsey cows in our area, and Guernsey County in our state, but I had to look on a map to find Guernsey, then pictures online of what it looks like .

After reading this book, I also bought the Guernsey Literary (yada-yada ) book  ,and also one called Living with the Enemy : the Story of the German Occupation of the channel Islands 1940-45 with eyewitness accounts of both sides .

 

I haven't read either yet, but hopefully will get to them soon .

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I also read this book a few years ago and loved it.  Sadly I can find no review that I made at the time, but having culled my bookshelves in the recent past, it's one that I have retained so for me that shows how much I loved it and didn't want to let it go.  I think I'll have to re-read it sometime.

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