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.

The Book of Ebenezer Le Page

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.

Historical roots

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.

 

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Other events that occured in March

Debut of Guernsey-set comedy This is Jinsy 1st
Channel 4 broadcasts Sark-based Mr Pye 2nd
First ever broadcast of Puffin’s Pla(i)ce 3rd
Dead man appointed to run Guernsey Airport 4th
Guernsey’s entire police force is arrested 5th
Isle of Guernsey delivered to its new owners 6th
Guernsey players set darts record
Guernsey heads call for an end to the Eleven-plus 7th
Guernsey’s first governor, Edmund Weston, is appointed 8th
Occupying forces mount a desperate raid on Granville 9th
Guernsey emergency services prepare for a disaster 10th
Birth of Baron James de Saumarez 11th
First publication of Victor Hugo’s Toilers of the Sea 12th
Building work starts on Guernsey Airport 13th
Guernsey’s island-wide police force is established 14th
Guernsey exchange student goes missing in Virginia 15th
The Book of Ebenezer Le Page is published 16th
BBC Radio Guernsey takes to the air
Guernsey clears up after heaviest snow in years 17th
Torrey Canyon spills oil on Guernsey’s beaches 18th
Guernsey issues banknotes featuring famous locals 19th
Guernsey guidebook pioneer Henry Inglis dies 20th
Soldiers staged a mutiny at Fort George 21st
Alderney arrest sparks a “riot” 22nd
Guernsey nurse Elizabeth Lincoln elected to the States 23rd
Famed printer Thomas de la Rue born 24th
Guernsey votes for equal age of consent 25th
Guernsey to UK telephone connection inaugurated 26th
Condor Liberation enters service 27th
Guernsey Post Office is established 28th
Enemy at the Door comes to the end of its run 29th
Guernsey adopts Sterling currency 30th
Guernsey and France tackle the Amoco Cadiz oil spill 31st