THE BOOK OF EBENEZER LE PAGE by G. B. Edwards

THE BOOK OF EBENEZER LE PAGE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

John Fowles introduces this first and only novel by G. B. Edwards (1899-1976), calling it an act of courage. It's a book in Guernsey English about the inhabitants of that Channel island, told by an old bachelor who's seen great change over the years, most of it bad. And though Fowles claims that Edwards' fiction transcends the provincial novel, that's exactly what it is--a provincial novel that works quite nicely in a pokey, unfashionable way. Ebenezer's memories turn more around people than events: his first best friend, Jim Malay, whose henpecking wife initiated Jim's submission, which the Germans finished off by gassing him to death in World War I; Liza Queripel, promiscuous but vital, Ebenezer's only (but impossible) love; cousin Raymond and his doomed, tragic life--first as a non-conformist preacher, then as a failed husband, and finally as the homosexual lover of yet another cousin. Throughout, old Ebenezer reflects on the dangerousness of women--aside from Liza and his widowed, live-in sister, they are devilish slalom-posts around which men must swerve--but this misogyny comes across with a surprising lack of malignancy. And his other great theme is the ancient-ness of Guernsey, a place crammed with relics: old buried treasure is as much a fact of life as catching fish or growing vegetables--and the ultimate plot twist (in a largely plotless book) involves a hidden treasure that turns out to be familial as well as material. Overall, then, it's a quiet, pleasant narrative (unfazed even by German WW II occupation)--the testimony of a passive eccentric whose reminiscences are as gnarled and local as the man himself; hardly--as advertised--one of the ""stranger recent literary events,"" but a charming curiosity that's true to its small place and good heart through and through.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1981
ISBN: 1590172337
Publisher: Knopf