“I could be out visiting this person or that, if I wanted to. They all make a fuss of me when I arrive, and shoo the cat off the armchair for me to sit in: but they are not really interested in anything I have to say. It is not that I want to say much; but I like to sit in a corner and listen to people talking, and put in my spoke now and then. Nowadays people don’t talk among themselves around the fire like they used to. As soon as I’ve sat down and been made comfortable, it’s ‘Sh! It’s Maigret!” or ‘It’s Eamon Andrews!’ and I have to sit in the half-dark and look at the horrible T.V.; and you can’t put your spoke in against the T.V.
That is how it is I come to be writing this book. I got to say what I think to somebody; if only to myself. I don’t expect anybody will ever read what I have written; but at the back of my mind I have the hope perhaps some day somebody will.
--- Ebenezer Le Page
From The Book of Ebenezer Le Page
By G. B. Edwards
Years ago, a writing coach gave this advice: Write as if you are writing a letter to your best friend. That kind of writing – even if it’s public – draws the reader in close.
That was advice I couldn’t heed; my own style, like me, tends to composure and comfortable distance. But it’s advice I admire, a style I envy.
Letter writing is passé. Ebenezer Le Page’s style is even more passé, even more intimate. G.B. Edward’s nearly 400-page novel written in Le Page’s elderly voice reads like one long winter’s fireside chat. Even LePage doesn't know how old he is -- but thinks he may be the oldest on his island. What's for sure, LePage is a codger -- if you draw up a chair and listen, you might hear something about history and the human heart.
His island is Guernsey, an island new to me – aside from cows and sweater-styles. One of the Channel Islands, it’s a possession of the British Crown, but one that has been invaded and claimed by various countries and churches throughout history. Le Page details Island life through a good part of 20th century – two World Wars (including the island’s occupation by Germany) and the advent of television and tourism (both of which LePage clearly doesn’t think much of). His ability to serve up the big picture (that macrocosmic view) by focusing tightly on the island he’s never left and limited circles of family and acquaintances (that microcosm) gives the reader that greatest of gifts: the presence of the extraordinary in the ordinary.
More on this book in blogs to come.