I will start this review with an excerpt. For me, it is the words and the writing style of an author that are the most important aspect of a book. Eighty year old Ebenezer, who has spent every day of his life on Guernsey, tells here of what happened one afternoon:It was sun and cloud and wind and very cold, and yet for some reason I thought I would go in a churchyard before I went home. It don’t make me sad. It cheers me up to see the graves. I feel here at last I’m among Guernsey people. I had to look at my grandfather’s. The gravestone is old and greenish, and there are others of my father’s family buried there, but my grandfather was the only name I could make out. Ah well, I thought. I will be under there myself before long. I didn’t mind, but I got the feeling I wanted to go in the church. I don’t go in for services, but that don’t mean I wouldn’t like to sometimes, only I can’t bring myself to stand up and say with everybody I believe this and I believe that when I am not at all sure in my own mind I do, ay. I pushed the heavy door and went in……
For hundreds of years people have gone there to worship and sing praises and say prayers and sleep through the sermons and be hypocrites for the rest of the week. But then who isn’t, ay?
(Part 3: chapter 14)
What does this excerpt show you? It shows you the author’s general writing style and how Ebenezer speaks to his audience. It shows how he often interjects “ay”, how he questions himself, his world and all that around him. The excerpt shows Ebenezer’s view of religion. His thoughts are not just disparaging. Remember he says he would maybe go to services if he could only do it with a clear conscience. I like that! Does the satire amuse or annoy you?
You will learn that Ebenezer is a very good person. Well, that is my opinion. It may not be yours. He is straight-forward, he doesn’t approve of people who take on airs. He admits his own weaknesses and admires this quality in others. He is humble. I think you have to like Ebenezer to like this book. He is never arrogant in his speech, manner or actions. As he himself points out, one has to sometimes read between the lines. A comment may seem accusing and harsh, but does that make the speaker a mean person? Not always. The reader comes to know Ebenezer very well by the last pages of this book. The reader also comes to know very well the personality traits of the other important people in his life: Jim and Liza, Father Darcy, Raymond and Christine, his sister Tabitha, his cousin Mary Anne. The English professor, Dudley Wayne, will make you laugh. This book is best for those who enjoy character studies. Liza is Ebenezer’s one true love and also the woman he always ends up arguing with every time they meet! But he also has eyes for other women. Will that annoy you? It doesn’t me….. You will soon find out he remains a bachelor all his life.
I was attracted to this book because I thought I would learn about Guernsey. Well I have fallen in love with life on Guernsey, but it is not the modern Guernsey of today that I love. I have fallen in love with the “Old Guernsey”. It seems just like Brittany, France. :0) The history of Guernsey during the Great War and during the German Occupation of the Second World War, all of this is covered, but not with lots of historical dates and facts. If you want a real history book go elsewhere. If you are looking to understand how the Guernsey people felt during the Great War, at the Armistice and during the Occupation, you will be satisfied. The story does not follow a chronological order. Ebenezer is telling us of his life, of the people he has known and he mentions historical details as they fit into his friends’ lives. This book is about people more than about history.
The book is filled with humor. He speaks of a woman with a ridiculously short skirt: she has her skirt “around her neck”! He is a bit old-fashioned, but I don’t care. He wants his women dressed in dresses or skirts, and certainly not pants! Yep, he prefers women with thicker legs rather than thin skinny ones. He realizes when he went to buy a book to write his life-story in that he had “lost his knack with women” that he had had when he was younger; they didn’t rush to help him in the store and more! He remarked, on hearing the blank book’s price: “That’s a lot for a book with no writing in it.” And then there is this line, which isn’t funny but is just so wonderful: “It takes two to make a painting: the chap who paints it and the one who looks at it.” Ebenezer’s view on art, well it is the same as mine. You do not have to understand art. You just have to look at it and enjoy it. You should get the real “feel” of the actual thing.
I love the lines. I love the thoughts expressed in this book. And seriously I fell in love with some of the characters. Jim, he is named on a war monument. Ebenezer sadly thinks that no one anymore remembers him……but on hearing his thoughts I exclaimed, “I remember him. I remember him because you have written this book! Thank you Ebenezer.”
I cannot more highly praise the audiobook’s narration by Roy Dotrice. Roy is Ebenezer, at least that is how it feels when he speaks!!! Dotrice speaks with the Guernsey patois. The French is not translated and it should not be. It would wreck the feel of the book. I recommend that you listen to rather than read this book. If you have never listened to an audiobook, this would be a great one to start with. It is not difficult to follow.
Others say this book has three parts: the old life, life during the Occupation and then the part about modern Guernsey and tourism. I do not agree. It is about the people in Ebenezer’s life and it is about Ebenezer himself. He is such a wonderful old guy. Don’t you want to meet him?
I was going to give this book five stars…..until the very last chapter. I can point to two things I did not like about the last chapter. There are a few paragraphs that are just too religious. These lines do not fit the character of Ebenezer really. Anyhow I did not like them. Secondly, that Nevil turned out to be a descendant of Liza was just too cute. That could have been skipped! I did like the book’s conclusion, i.e. what happens to Ebenezer at the end, but two small details annoyed me so the book lost one star. I highly recommend listening to this book, or reading it if you cannot listen to it. Five stars must be saved for those books that are absolutely perfect. This was almost perfect.
Through chapter three:
This is good. I haven't listened to much yet but I highly recommend the audiobbok version narrated by Roy Dotrice. I have to keep reminding myself that it isn't really Roy who is speaking of himself! The narration is absolutely perfect.
The lines are funny. When his grandmother dies, the will is read and "possessions" have to be dealt out to the kids.... Isn't it always the weirdest things that we get upset about. In our family it was the photo albums. All hell broke loose about the photo albums. In his family it was the wedding dress. You relate to what he speaks of.
What else? He says history is only dates, and he has forgotten them except the two most important: 55 B.C. when Julius Caesar arrived in England and 1066 A.D. when they conquered England. They? Who is they?
But the best is the narration. Ebenezer and Roy are one and the same.