Thursday, August 25, 2011

'The Book of Ebenezer Le Page' by G.B Edwards

Publisher: Penguin books

ISBN: 0-14-005898-2

Length:482 pages

What the 'blurb' says:

'Stubborn, reactionary and oddly vulnerable, Ebenezer is a Guerseyman through and through. For him the smell of the sea, the tomatoes and his hatred of Jersey make up the stuff of existence. His long life, bounded by rocks and water and rooted in tradition, sees the destruction of the ways.

Ebenezer does not give up easily: and across the jostling characters, the crowded births and deaths and the fierce island feuds, he speaks to us with a seductive and universal voice.'

Opening Line:
'Guernsey, Guernesey, Garnsai, Sarnia: so they say.'

What's good about this novel?

Upon beginning 'The Book of Ebenezer Le Page', I was convinced that this was an autobiographic novel. However when I read the back cover, I was shocked to see that this is a word of fiction. There are many authors who are able to create believeable characters, Barbara Comyns springs to mind, but I have never come across a character as convincing as Ebenezer. His turns of phrases and humour draw you in and I believed that he was an old man, telling the story of his life on the island of Guernsey.

The plot was generally well paced and the sensitivity of the writing in some parts of the novel, was excellent. I particularly liked Ebenezer's relationships with Raymond and his friend Jim. For me these were the best parts of the novel, as well as the final portion, which focused more on Ebenezer in the present, rather than in the past.

What's wrong with this novel?

I found this novel difficult to read, because I constantly flitted between liking it and then not. I found that some of the stories Ebenezer told, about his relatives to be slightly laborious and detracted from Ebenezer himself. The continual focus on the plethora of distant relatives in his family, made me feel not only confused in places, about who was who, but also it felt as if Ebenezer was the sort of lonely person, or bores anyone who will listen, about people that have no consequence to the listener.

This frustrated me because I know that Ebenezer was an interesting character and I just wanted to know more about him. Also I found the ending to be a little disappointing, because really, there is no end to this novel at all.'The Book of Ebenezer Le Page' could have been a fantastic book, but I'm frustrated that this book doesn't quite achieve that.

Is this worth a read?

If you have any interest in Guernsey, this could be interesting read. Also, as I am unable to completely make my mind up about 'The Book of Ebenezer Le Page', this may be worth a read, if only to make your own mind up about it.

Have you read this novel? What are your thoughts on it?


  1. Extraordinarily inadequate account of the conclusion of this great novel.... Guy Davenport rightly wrote, when the book was first published in America in 1981: ‘A masterpiece...One of the best novels of our time...I know of no description of happiness in modern literature equal to the one that ends this novel.’

  2. Hi Edward I'm sorry that you found my review unsatisfactory, but thank you for your thought provoking comment. You have quoted Guy Davenport as saying that this novel a masterpiece and he may have thought that, but obviously I didn't agree when writing this review 3 years ago. However, that does not mean that, if I re-read this novel, I would necessarily feel the same. In fact, I think it would be interesting to revisit some of the novels I have reviewed, to see whether or not my opinions have changed.

    Your comment does pose an interesting question though. If one person deems a book, film etc a masterpiece, should we then all agree that is it? The beauty of the blogosphere, in my opinion, is that not one post about the same book, film, general subject is the same, which stimulates debate.

    So, why do you think that 'The Book of Ebenezer Le Page' could be considered a masterpiece?

    Also I want to throw this question out to everyone. Do you follow reviews or recommendations from others? Do you feel pressure to accept the prestige of a film/novel? Or do you make your own mind up?