About The Book of Ebenezer Le Page

9 Mar

The Book of Ebenezer le Page The Book of Ebenezer Le Page is an enchanting story of an eighty-year-old man who has lived his whole life on the Channel Island of Guernsey, family secrets and feuds, unforgettable friendships and friendships betrayed, love glimpsed and lost. But it’s not just the book itself that is so interesting, there’s also a fascinating story behind it.

It was in 1981, five years after the death of the author, G.B. Edwards (1899-1976), that the first edition of The Book of Ebenezer Le Page was published. Scarcely a punctuation mark needed altering as Edwards had made sure of the completeness and quality of his work. He had published articles in the 1920s and 1930s and then, towards the end of his life, completed this single novel. It was rejected by the major publishers before his death.

Edward Chaney was an art student and spent the summer in Dorset where he met Gerald Edwards to whom he was introduced by a young pianist whose parents took in lodgers.

“One day she told me that they had a new lodger who had known D.H. Lawrence. This had me introducing myself more or less immediately. While I was disappointed to discover that he never actually met Lawrence (though he was commissioned to write his biography when Lawrence was still alive), I was far from disappointed by the man himself, his extraordinary erudition and vividly articulate and forthright presence.”
(Edward Chaney, ‘G B Edwards: Author of The Book of Ebenezer Le Page’, Part I, The Review of the Guernsey Society,  Winter 1994-5, vol. L, No 3, pp 64-72)

When they met, Gerald was completing his great novel, a tour de force of a fictional autobiography of a Guernseyman who had never left the island. Edward encouraged him to finish it, and he did in the summer of 1974. A fortnight after his return to University from Dorset, Edward received a letter. Gerald had dedicated his typescript to him and his wife and formally bequeathed the book itself to Edward, in a gesture that rendered it symmetrical with the fictional Ebenezer’s donation of his ‘Book’ to his young protege Neville Falla. Edward failed to find a publisher during the author’s lifetime, but after his death, when he moved to Italy and met a former Hamish Hamilton editor, he managed to get it accepted. It was then published to great acclaim and has been in print ever since. Roy Dotrice read an abridged version of the novel on Woman’s Hour in 1982 to great acclaim, the late Pat McLoughlin remembering it as the most popular in the 23 years she produced it…

critics:

“This extraordinary book” full of “wonderful writing”: “To read it is not like reading but living”, William Golding. Re Ebenezer himself, Golding wrote: “Nor are simple adjectives adequate… there is epic stature in his individualism”. The following December (1981) Golding chose it as his “Book of the Year” in The Sunday Times.

“The achievement is so intense and universal that the reader is rendered speechless… G.B. Edwards has succeeded in writing a great novel”; Isobel Murray inThe Financial Times.

“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.” Guy Davenport, The New York Times Book Review.

 

Buy the audio book of The Book of Ebenezer Le Page from AudioGO.

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