16th March 1981
The Book of Ebenezer Le Page is published
Many consider The Book of Ebenezer Le Page to be the most authentic work of fiction about Guernsey life, and indeed a great work of fiction in its own right. Yet, it all the publishers to whom its author, Gerald Basil Edwards, submitted it rejected it outright. It was only published in 1981, five years after Edwards’ death.
Edwards had wanted to call the book Sarnia Cherie. Its current title was originally its sub-title, but the two were switched by the publisher. It was also supposed to be the first volume of a trilogy. Sadly, parts two and three were never written.
Local language in a local landscape
Written in Guernsey English, it tells the life story of Ebenezer Le Page. It follows him from birth in the Vale in the late 1800s, through the occupation to his death in the early 1960s. He works as a fisherman and tomato grower throughout, and only leaves the island once. That was when he travelled to Jersey to watch a Muratti football match (which Guernsey won).
Ebenezer’s love for Liza Queripel runs through the book. Even though they never marry, and long periods can pass between them seeing each other – sometimes years at a time – it is a constant, as is his friendship with Jim. Their friendship is only ever platonic, and Jim loses his life in the war, but his feeling are as strong – maybe stronger – as those he has for Liza.
Ebenezer stays on the island throughout the German occupation. Author Edwards includes significant historical details to illustrate his points, despite not having been on the island himself during the war. He talks at length about the cruelty of the occupying forces, as well as the dwindling food supply in its closing months.
The book is rambling, and structured so that it appears to be what Ebenezer himself has written as he approaches old age. An inscription in the front declares it to be “The Property of Neville Falla”.
Falla is Ebenezer’s son-in-law. The fictional gifting of the book mirrors Edwards’ own real-life. He signed over ownership of the novel to cultural historian Edward Chaney two years before the his death. It was Chaney who eventually succeeded in getting it published.