For every taste and budget, a paperback

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The Book of Ebenezer Le Page, by G. B. Edwards. New York: A von Books. 400 pp. $6.95.

This is a novel to be savored carefully and gently, its pervasive wisdom absorbed like the warmth of a jeweled island in the sun.

Purported to have been found among the papers of the late Edwards, a resident of the isle of Guernsey in the English Channel, the narrative has no conventional plot or structure. People flow in and out like the tides, as they are remembered.

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Rendered in the island's quaint, colloquial English, the book shines for the treasure of arcane wisdom it contains, spoken offhandedly or implied in the actions of quarry workers, seamen, and farmers, whose story it tells in the period before, during, and after World War II. The book records the passionate attachment of the islanders to their land; the regard members of a community can have for one another beyond petty hatreds; and Le Page's bittersweet, enduring love for a woman he never possessed. Through it all, the outreaching, crusty humanity of the central character holds us in its spell.

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