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The Book of Ebenezer Le Page (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – July 10, 2007


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My Struggle: Book Four
Eighteen-year-old Karl Ove moves to a tiny fishing village in the Arctic Circle to work as a school teacher. As the nights get longer, the shadow cast by his father's own sharply increasing alcohol consumption, also gets longer. Read the full description
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Recently reprinted by New York Review Books, G.B. Edwards' novel tells the story of a Guernsey man who lived through the Nazi occupation of Britain's Channel Islands into garrulous old age. His reminiscence is couched in a musical Guernsey English that follows circular paths through past and present to delve into island secrets and sagas. Great stuff." --Seattle Times

"There is a rare wholeness about The Book of Ebenezer Le Page. You get the entire man, in a way that isn't usually within the gift of literature to procure... I have read few books of such wide and delightful appeal.... [it] is vast fun and vast life, a Kulturgeschichte..." -Michael Hofmann, London Review of Books

"...a near-forgotten classic of post-colonial fiction...yet it comes, not from some far tropical shore, but from an old man writing in the 1970s about his native Guernsey .... All honour to the New York Review imprint for restoring him to his obstreperous glory." -The Independent (UK)

“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.” —The New York Times (Guy Davenport)

“Quaint. Fascinating. Unique. Queer…The Book of Ebenezer Le Page is a eulogy for a way of life.” —The Los Angeles Times (Valerie Miner)

“It reads like Beethoven’s Ninth…Coated with sea salt, its crannies spilling wildflowers, Edwards’s book still roars like some huge shell held, cutting, against your ear.” —The Atlantic

“An extraordinary book!…Splendid! To read it is not like reading but living.” —William Golding

“Imagine a weekend spent in deep conversation with a superb old man, a crusty, intelligent, passionate and individualistic character at the peak of his powers as a raconteur, and you will have a very good idea of the impact of The Book of Ebenezer Le Page…It amuses, it entertains, it moves us… Ebenezer’s voice presides over all and its creation is a tremendous achievement.” —The Washington Post (Doug Lang)

“[A] rare find…it is unique–a first novel that resists all categories–and it overflows with the sense of life…It’s chief virtues are a story rich in human connection and a marvelously seductive language…For those who cherish style, it is also good to hear a fresh novelist’s voice telling the old story of the passions, generosities, and greeds that battle in us all.” —Chicago Tribune (Lynne Sharon Schwartz)

“G.B. Edwards, who died an unknown in 1976, constructed his novel out of the patterns of daily life–countless teas, lovers’ quarrels, accounts of friendships and the signs of change as Guernsey reluctantly assumes the characteristics of progress. The results are enchanting.” —The Washington Post (New In Paperbacks)

“A remarkable achievement!…The book’s voice and its methods are so unusual that it belongs nowhere on our conventional literary maps.” —John Fowles

“[A] knowing and beguiling chronicle of life on the English Channel isle of Guernsey…This deceptively plain-spoken story of a man’s years passing in review before him struck me, when I first read it in 1981, as a beautifully crafted job of writing. Upon rereading it recently, I redoubled my liking and admiration for both Ebenezer and Edwards.” —Ivan Doig, Christian Science Monitor

The Book of Ebenezer Le Page, by G. B. Edwards, is an inexhaustible book I never tire of giving. It is literally one of a kind, a work with no precedent, sponsorship, or pedigree. A true epic, as sexy as it is hilarious, it seems drenched with the harsh tidal beauties of its setting, the isle of Guernsey…For every person nearing retirement, every latent writer who hopes to leave his island and find the literary mainland, its author–quiet, self-sufficient, tidy Homeric–remains a patron saint.” —Allan Gurganus, O Magazine

The Book of Ebenezer Le Page, by G. B. Edwards, is an oddity and a great literary wonder, written in the beautiful French patios of Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands…[Edwards] feels intensely about everything and everyone in this deliciously rich novel of longing and love.” —Archipelago

“Here is an islander; an island man, solitary, unmarried, alienated, who describes the modern denaturing of our world. Granite quarries and tomatoes and early potatoes; but then come tourists, international companies, tax evaders, occupation by Germans, etcetera.” —The New York Review of Books

“Books: Forced to choose, we'd pick The Book of Ebenezer Le Page by G. B. Edwards as our favorite novel of all time. The recollections of a cranky old man on the island of Guernsey, Guy Davenport of the Times wrote, when the book was first published here 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.’ Hard for us to imagine a more pleasurable weekend than one spent with Ebenezer Le Page.”–Manhattan User’s Guide

About the Author

G. B. Edwards (1899—1976) was born on the British Island of Guernsey. A professor of drama and literature at Toynbee Hall, his friends included Middleton Murray, J.S. Collis, and Stephen Potter. Though full of promise, he published only a handful of articles. Encouraged by Edward Chaney to create a trilogy of novels on island life, he completed only one, The Book of Ebenezer Le Page.

John Fowles (1926—2005) was born in Leigh-on-Sea, in the south-east of England, and educated at Oxford. His best-known novels are The French Lieutenant's Woman and The Magus.
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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics; Re Issue edition (July 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590172337
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590172339
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #75,156 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Ronald Scheer on August 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
I have long had a fascination for islands and count among my memorable experiences times spent on them and meeting the people who live there. It often amazes me how the geography of these small areas of land surrounded by open sea can expand in the minds of island residents to seem much larger than they in fact are. This psychological phenomenon must be due in part to the density of memory and history compacted within such confining natural boundaries.
G.B. Edwards' novel captures exactly that experience. It takes place on Guernsey, an English-speaking island with French cultural roots, and it embraces in its many pages the lifetime of one man. Born into the attitudes and values of the Victorian era, he's a very singular man, living alone, often cranky and difficult but his heart filled with yearning. His whole life has been transfigured by a boyhood adventure that leaves him stranded at high tide with a dearly loved friend on a chunk of rock offshore.
The island confinement is intensified in the years of German occupation during World War II. This seldom-told chapter of British history is depicted with absorbing detail and considerable suspense, as diminishing supplies of food and fuel, the constant threat of harsh treatment by the occupiers, and the sense of being "abandoned" by the British government make resistance difficult.
Like others who have written reviews here, I was enthralled by this big, well written book and was reluctant to see it end. I heartily recommend it as both an engaging story with a rich cast of vividly drawn characters and a window into a time and place that are little known to the rest of the world.
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43 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Manola Sommerfeld on June 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
These are the fictional memoirs of Ebenezer Le Page, who writes about his life from the time he is a young boy to present, possibly till the day before he died. At a first glance, he led a very uneventful life, in that he never left his island, and was a simple farmer and fisherman. However, this is an example of how human nature is endlessly fascinating: the little and big fights between the members of his family, his observations, in retrospect, about what went wrong with this and that other person, the what ifs, his love life, his mom, his devoted sister, the horrible German occupation of Guernsey, and finally his decision over who would be the heir of his money and land. This is one of the best books i've read this year. There is so much history, insight, wisdom and humor in these pages that makes this one of those must-read-at-all-costs books. I would love to go to Guernsey and visit the sights.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Owen Hughes on May 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
There are some books which seem predestined to disappear into literary obscurity. Yet "The Book of Ebenezer Le Page" continues to enjoy a sort of charmed life and I'm very glad of it. The story unfolds on the island of Guernsey, in the Channel between Britain and France. Its character are therefore subjected to the influences of both countries, giving rise to such quaint observations as, "in 1066, when we (the Guernseymen) conquered Great Britain...." The island's patois is used throughout the book and there is a sense of locality which can only be gained (apart from having lived there) by those intimate with the small change of French argot.
Some marvellous things about this first and only novel include the voice of the narrator and the obscure life of its author. A Guernseyman who left the island to live in England, G. B. Edwards remained unknown in literature despite having earned a small income from play writing for many years. During his years outside Guernsey, he lived in a series of small English seaside towns, finishing in Weymouth where he died. Weymouth is the nearest place one can be to Guernsey on the English mainland. Some great sadness kept him from returning to his homeland but scarcely ever, it seems, from thinking about it. Such is the quality of the narrative voice in the novel, which contains always a trace of lament.
Yet it is very much a joyful book, in a typically dour, island sort of way. It is essentially a celebration of life and we, removed from the times by fifty to a hundred years, are given a privileged view of a corner of the world we would hardly expect to know at first hand. In any case, it is a world now passed.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Woosley on December 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
I loved this book, me!
I grew up on that little island, barely 5 miles long and 4 miles wide, but a whole country unto itself! The place defies the physics of Geography! It's tiny, but it's vast too. Like the story of our friend Mr. Ebenezer Le Page, the simplicity of the lives of the inter connected characters, colourful and quirky, defies the closeness of the shores.
GB Edwards' posthumous writings capture the essence of the folk and the place as well, possibly better, than any book about anybody, anywhere. I highly encourage anyone who reads this story to find out as much about Guernsey as possible, perhaps even go there (visit Victor Hugo's house), then read it again for the first time.
Utterly enchanting! Haunting! Simply brilliant!
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Anonymous on August 30, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It has been years since I read this book and I've been wishing and hoping it would be republished so I could replace my old copy with a new one. I have read many, many books in my life and many that are called masterpieces; this book is one of my all-time favorites. It creates a world and a population and a language and a time and you are there and it is wonderful. This memorable masterpiece deserves to be in print and should be taught in literature courses so that new generations will come to know and love it and keep it in print! Like many other reviewers, I recall being so very reluctant to leave when the book came to an end. It's a marvelous read and a great literary accomplishment. Maybe like another great favorite, Housekeeping, this one will find new readership and maybe as with another favorite, A Confederacy of Dunces, publishers will realize the error of their ways and bring a great book to bookshelves.
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