Tom Ireland's Reviews > The Book of Ebenezer Le Page

The Book of Ebenezer Le Page by G.B. Edwards
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's review
Dec 14, 2010

it was amazing
Read in September, 2010

At the moment I am reading G. B. Edwards' The Book of Ebenezer Le Page. I came to this book through my Dad, who picked it up while on holiday in Guernsey. While he was reading it he drove the rest of us crazing by guffawing to himself and then reading parts out to us constantly. Now I am reading it, I do the same. It is that sort of book, utterly brilliant.

The book is the fictional memoir of the eponymous Guernseyman, Ebby as he is known to his chums. The best thing about this book is its very individual voice. The book is written to be spoken, it is like a conversation with an old friend. The narrative is episodic and meanders along with bitingly funny commentary from Ebby. It had me chuckling from the very first page, which begins thus:

"Guernsey, Guernesey, Garnsai, Sarnia: so they say. Well, I don't know, I'm sure. The older I get and the more I learn, the more I know I don't know nothing, me. I am the oldest on the island, I think. Liza Queripel from Pleinmont say she is older; but I reckon she is putting it on. When she was a young woman, she used to have a birthday once every two or three years; but for years now she have been having two or three a year."

That is enough to give you a flavour of Ebby's idiosyncratic voice. Edwards strikes a fine balance between authenticity and readability. Too often books written in patois are difficult going for an unfamiliar reader, but The Book of Ebenezer Le Page is wonderful to read. It flows from reminiscence to reminiscence naturally and if you pick it up you will read for longer than you intended.

The content is just as good as the style. It is an elegy for Guernsey in the early 20th century. The glasses are more than just tinted but you will not care. I have only read the first half so far but Ebby's matter of fact narration can bring you to tears and to laughter. The innocent closeness between Ebby and his best friend, Jim, is something to be very jealous of. Ebby's impotent rage when Jim is killed in the First World War is understated but hugely powerful. The book does not shy away from sadness and many of the relationships described are unhappy. Happy or unhappy, though, everything is described with the same wryness which make you love Ebenezer.

In another memoir, Susan Hill's Howard's End is on the Landing, she writes about certain books being best read in certain places. Edwards' book should be read on a comfy sofa with you knees brought up, preferably by a fire.

If it sounds like your thing, buy it, read it, and pass it on (but make sure you get your copy back in the end, my Dad won't be).
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