Jimmy's Reviews > The Book of Ebenezer Le Page

The Book of Ebenezer Le Page by G.B. Edwards
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it was amazing
bookshelves: uk-guernsey, male, novel, year-1970s, nyrb, ageing
Recommended to Jimmy by: Maureen

I feel inadequate to the task of reviewing this book. It's like asking me to review a person, which is impossible. But that's what this book is. More than any other character I've encountered in a book, Ebenezer comes fully fleshed. I loved him deeply, despite his flaws (or because of them), and because he doesn't bullshit. He has lived eighty odd years and he has no time for bullshit, his or anyone else's, and no reason to either. His language is rich, colloquial. Some will say quaint with a negative connotation, but quaint can also be a positive quality in a world where we are pulled apart by technology, tourism, and material goods, so much so that we can't truly see each other for who we are underneath all that.

The book is divided into three parts, and each with 20 chapters, and each chapter is almost OCD-like in their exact length. I imagined Ebenezer scrawling in his notebook, night after night and story after story, and just stopping when he got to the end of the page. Obviously Edwards (the author of this incredible book) was not Ebenezer, but he created a character through which the book is so real that it feels more a product of this character's handwriting and temperament than the author's own. Which is no easy task because Ebenezer is a complete outsider. He is not someone who's read Literature with a capital L. He's lived his entire life on a small island, and that's a refreshingly wonderful perspective in the world of smart, witty, worldly narrators.

The voice here is meandering and charming. It reminded me of listening to my own grandfather recount stories of his youth. They are almost inconsequential in that the stories don't seem to build into a grander narrative. But precisely because of this inconsequentiality they are rich with characterization and unhurried in their depiction of place, speech, customs, and people. But in part two, we see more of a bigger story building. And by part three, most of the important things in his life have already happened, and we are left with the feeling of being out of time--we are stranded on an island with Ebenezer, looking for a bit of humanity when everyone we love has gone. Stranded on an island with strangers, living in the past.

I related on so many levels with Ebenezer. Like me, he's super critical of others, but when he finds someone he really likes, he goes soft and will walk to the ends of the earth for them. The idea of innocents, Horace in Raymond's eyes, and Jim in Ebenezer's eyes--I am not sure if Ebenezer is not himself one of the innocents, in my eyes.

My review truly does not do this book justice. This is one of the most alive books I've read, and I couldn't help laughing and sobbing (sometimes simultaneously!) through parts of it. It really is that good. Or rather, it is beyond good or bad, it breathes. Now is probably a good time to stop reading this stupid fucking inarticulate review, and go get a copy of this book. NOW!
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Reading Progress

December 4, 2012 – Shelved
January 7, 2013 – Started Reading
January 7, 2013 –
page 3
0.76% "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."
January 7, 2013 –
page 9
2.28% "It say in the Bible 'Look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged.' Well, those people are the rock whence I was hewn, and the hole of the pit whence I was digged. I haven't said nothing about my cousins, and the cousins of my cousins; but then half the island is my cousins, and the cousins of my cousins."
January 7, 2013 –
page 14
3.55% "I used to chuck it sometimes and go fishing for a spell. I was happier working out-of-doors and in a boat; but you can't trust the sea, and the fishes get ideas into their heads and sometimes they are where they ought to be and sometimes they are not."
January 14, 2013 –
page 58
14.72% "One Sunday evening ... I said to Jim, 'How about going to hear my great-aunt preach, eh?' He said, 'Goodness, I didn't know you had a great-aunt who preaches!' I said, 'Well, she is not my great-aunt, really. She live with my great-uncle.' He said, 'Then she is your great-aunt by marriage.' 'They're not married,' I said. 'Then she's your great-aunt in sin!' he said. 'Golly, let's go and hear her!'"
January 18, 2013 –
page 98
24.87% ""Raymond would have liked his father to talk with him about the [books he read], say what he thought of the characters, and so on; but all he would say was 'A good yarn,' or 'Not a bad yarn,' or 'Not much of a yarn.'" -- HAHAHA this makes me want to go back and change all my GR reviews to the "yarn" rating system :)"
January 18, 2013 –
page 108
27.41% "I have lived too long. I have lived through two world wars and been no hero in neither. Two is one too many for any man. Now I sit and wait for the third. I wonder if I will live to see it. I don't believe, I don't believe, I don't believe in what the Great Powers do. Nurse Cavell said 'Patriotism is not enough'. She was wrong. It is too much! It is enough for us to love and hate our neighbors as ourselves."
January 22, 2013 –
page 197
50.0% "I don't believe in banks. I am quite capable of looking after my own money, thank you. Come to that, I can't see what banks are for, except to make money out of other people's money: and then, when they go bust, they don't pay it back. <-- ah, Ebenezer, you're so prescient!"
January 27, 2013 –
page 378
95.94% "I'm going to miss Ebenezer when he's gone. Part of me wants to read faster, part of me wants to linger so it'll last longer. I'm crying even though this part's not exactly sad. Ahh... what a great book. Or rather, what a great person."
January 27, 2013 –
page 393
99.75% "I thought it is him who is the old one, and me the young; for the young are born old nowadays, and it is for the old to show them how to be young again."
January 27, 2013 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-25 of 25 (25 new)

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Maureen hurray! it's a beauty. :)

Jimmy I just realized that all my friends and people I follow on GR who have read this book have rated it 5 stars. Can't argue with science!!!

Jimmy That's 7 five stars by the way :)

Maureen the beauty of goodreads, right? we can't always agree but when trusted voices do, it really increases the odds of enjoyment. i just bought this to give to somebody for christmas -- i've established myself as a "trusted source" for literature and i can't let him down. :)

message 5: by Rod (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rod I certainly trust you above all others, Mo!

Maureen aw, rod. i actually think you might be sort of serious with that remark, and i am honoured. :)

and you've set me off on some wonderful directions, so i'd like to send a compliment right back atcha. the long ships has been a lot of fun! i found my old penguin classics egil's saga the other day -- depending on your time, we have to do read that together this year. :)

message 7: by Rod (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rod Mo, that sounds like a plan.

Jimmy holy shit, maureen... I just got Ebenezer Le Page in the mail and read the first chapter... this is great!

message 9: by Rod (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rod It's amazing, isn't it? I really need to re-read it this year.

Jimmy Yeah... unfortunately, I'm in the middle of 3 other books... and I can't allow myself to indulge in Ebenezer until I've finished at least one of those 3... otherwise, I'll just keep starting books and not finishing.

Maureen hurray, jimmy! i'm so glad you're enjoying it! :)

Jimmy Yay, I was so looking forward to this. So far it's incredible.

message 13: by Maureen (last edited Jan 07, 2013 12:13PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Maureen i just came back from a soul-sucking conference and it was lovely to see this comment and be reminded of a book that is invested in something other than "winning". :)

Jimmy Soul-sucking conference? Yuck. Sorry to hear that.

message 15: by Maureen (last edited Jan 07, 2013 12:32PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Maureen yep. i think it's just the nature of the sales conference -- jack-boot standing ovations and corporate bullshit. they send editorial/production team members so we can find out what new developments are coming down the pipe but it also means you have to endure the zombie horde of type A cookie-cutter jerk wads. happily, i bumped into some australian colleagues and we commiserated.

at least i got a relatively fun t-shirt out of it. and perhaps a cold -- not sure though. might just be losing my voice. (also, i may have danced my butt off in an effort to not talk to people. :P)

message 16: by Michael (new)

Michael Great review! I never heard about this book, but it sounds wonderful.

message 17: by Ben (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben Loory loved this book! still think about it all the time.

Steve You sell this really well, Jimmy. Great review. It seems like I should have heard of this one before, but that doesn't matter since I have now and it's on my list.

message 19: by Szplug (new)

Szplug This book gets nothing but five stars. From everybody I know. That consistency of delight is remarkable. I've simply got to get my hands on this one...

Jimmy Wow, thanks for all the likes and comments on this one, guys. I'm overwhelmed :). Chris: yeah, that's what I realized about this book too, before I read this... all my friends had given it 5 stars. I hate to be just another unanimous voice in the choir, but in this case, I totally am :) I'm sure you'll love it!

message 21: by Maureen (last edited Feb 03, 2013 07:16AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Maureen ben's little review points up that this is an amazing novel by an author who wrote only one novel, and your point (unnoticed by me on my reading -- nice catch!) about the chapter length makes me wonder if the book is partly so powerful because he fussed over it for so many years. in the reviews i've read that aren't five star, people tend to point to their dissatisfaction with the ending... maybe it's because edwards didn't end up having twenty years to fiddle with it? (i'm just playing devil's advocate here, really. i liked the way the novel ended. and far be it for me to say that a novel must gestate for decades before it is really ready for publication, but i do wonder if it helps, and if it contributes to the almost universal love. i mean, i not only gave it five stars but it quickly became a favourite of all-time. :)

message 22: by Szplug (new)

Szplug I'm sure you'll love it!

My purchasing resistance (Ha! Like I have any) crumbled, and so, hopefully, I shall shortly be able to to affirm that your confidence is well-placed!

message 23: by knig (new) - rated it 5 stars

knig It IS hard to do this book justice: I've not come across anything like it before: but I'm awed, a little, like you. doesn't it seem like at the very end, he ends up all alone in the world with only Liza a contamporaneous cohort? So, eighty years old or not, I'm still holding out for a 'happily ever after' for those two. Why not?

message 24: by Paul (new) - rated it 5 stars

Paul Secor Great review! One of my favorite works of fiction. Probably my favorite.

Jimmy Thanks Paul, it's one of my favorite works too.

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