7 March 2016

G. B. Edwards: The Book of Ebenezer Le Page (1981)

G. B. Edwards's The Book of Ebenezer Page (1981) is not a book I'd have read without his biographer Edward Chaney making a comment on a blog post here. I'm very pleased that he did though, as I've been introduced to a somewhat obscure, fascinating work that was published posthumously: Edwards was born on Guernsey in 1899, and died in Weymouth, Dorset, in 1976. I've ordered Edward Chaney's Genius Friend: G. B. Edwards and the Book of Ebenezer Page (2015) and shall be discovering more in due course.

As regards the rejection slips that Edwards must have received for his only novel, I can only assume that the publishers' readers didn't read the whole book: what at first appearances may seem like the (possibly rather amateurish) life story of a man from Guernsey is in fact a very complicated saga of life on a small island and the interrelationships between many of the characters in it over a period of several decades. And any criticisms of parochialism are automatically offset by the fact that the emotions of the characters – greed, love, ambition, friendship, self-preservation, hatred, selfishness, generosity, and many more – are universal, and the events described in the book could in fact apply virtually anywhere.

This is a big book in many ways, four hundred pages of close type. It documents a whole community at peace, coping under Nazi occupation, and how it coped afterwards. Many individuals are shown here but after all this is Ebenezer Le Page's book, and his generosity, his forgiveness, his acceptance of others' foibles, his observations and his humour shine throughout the book. On the other hand, political correctness isn't his forte, and his comments on gender (well, the role of women), and on homosexuality, leave him looking a little old-fashioned today. On the positive side, though, what can only be seen as fear of the modern comes over as refreshingly welcome: his hatred of television, particularly walking out on a visit as soon as it is switched on because he considers the people on it to be intruders, is a joy. As, of course, is his hatred of the fact that the island is losing its traditional nature and becoming a tax and tourist haven.

Yes, The Book of Ebenezer Le Page is a joy to read.

My other post on G. B. Edwards:

Edward Chaney: G. B. Edwards & The Book of Ebenezer Page

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