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A Fine & Private Place Paperback – 14 Jun 2007
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“I first read A Fine and Private Place in 1970. It was my first introduction to the work of Peter S. Beagle. I was 18 years old. That I can still recall the opening scene so clearly is an indication that this book was a unique experience for me as a reader. I immediately followed this book by reading The Last Unicorn. A Fine and Private Place is a contemporary ‘ghost’ story set in a cemetery, and The Last Unicorn is a lovely fantasy set in an alternate world. I recommend both of them without reservation.”
―Robin Hobb, author of Assassin’s Apprentice and Assassin’s Fate
"I can't think of a better book to buy for someone you love this holiday season."
One of literature’s most beautiful works about ghostly times and places...told with wit, charm, and a sense of individuality.”
New York Times Book Review
A Fine & Private Place is just as wonderful as I remembered it to be: beautifully written, the characters warmly drawn, the pages filled with conversations that run the gamut of the human condition.... It’s a great book in a lovely affordable package.”
Fantasy & Science Fiction
Both sepulchral and oddly appealing.... [Beagle’s] ectoplasmic fable has a distinct mossy charm.”
San Francisco Chronicle
A sweet, sad, and smart novel about life, death and love...a book that has endured for a reason.”
The Agony Column
A wonderful work of literature...a gem of a novel.”
Over a cold beverage and a hot bowl of chili, Peter Beagle recently told me how he came to write A Fine & Private Place. He was just nineteen years old at the time, the length of time that Mr. Rebeck spent in that cemetery. He was working as a counselor at a boys’ summer camp. Once the campers were settled for the night there wasn’t much for the counselors to do. Those who had sweethearts at the girls’ camp across the lake would borrow canoes and paddle across to see them. Peter had no such luck, he told me, so he warmed up his rattly little portable typewriter, cracked open a ream of paper, and starting writing a book. We are all incredibly lucky that Peter had no girlfriend that summer.”
Dick Lupoff, SF Site
An amazing read.... If fantastically developed characters trapped between love and death appeal to you, this is a nearly perfect book.”
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Top customer reviews
The raven has an attitude, but insists on dragging sandwiches to Mr. Rebeck, a pharmacist who decided to live in the cemetery many years ago. Mr. Rebeck is lonely most of the time, except when there is a new burial, for then that person's ghost will stick around a little while and keep him company, until the ghost forgets what it is to be human, to be alive.
Michael Morgan and Laura are two such new ghosts. Each has a conflicted past, not fully remembered, and take different approaches to this new state of 'living', Michael trying fiercely to retain all he can of himself and his past, Laura trying to fully leave the world of the living. Mr. Rebeck suddenly finds himself with an unusually rich set of company, for besides Michael and Laura, he finds himself involved with the widow Mrs. Klapper, coming to visit the tomb of her husband.
Each of these characters is finely delineated, their conversations with each other slowly illuminating their pasts, their ambitions, their fears, and their hopes. From a little evening singing, quiet walks, the raven bringing news of the outside world, the story is built bit by little bit, with no large dramatic moments until the very end. It is, in essence, a character study, and each character's approach to life imposes its message about life's meaning and purpose. There are some fairly deep philosophical ruminations presented within this, part and parcel of the story line, stated with ease and a poetic feel that suffuses this entire work, with the raven perhaps as the cynic to provide some balance and comedy relief. Ah, but the final point is the attraction these characters begin to feel for each other, all quite logical, even predictable, but the result we end with is a believable love story of both the dead and the living.
Perhaps this work could have done with a little more action, a little more drama. But then again, adding such elements might have spoiled this poem in prose. Not perfect, but certainly one of the more unusual and very readable fantasy works I've read, with a set of ideas that possibly could not have been investigated in any other literary genre.
--- Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
I am not a romance reader (my way to this book went through Beagle's excellent fantasy novels) and was surprised at how much I enjoyed this one. It's a quiet book, but one that stays in your thoughts for a long time.
The story, such as it is, focuses on Jonathan Rebeck, a man who has retreated from the outside world to live in a large cemetery in New York. He survives by drinking from the tap behind his mausoleum and is fed by a wisecracking raven. Rebeck has a special talent: he can see and talk to the dead. In fact, he keeps hoping that he *is* dead. Of course, he is very much alive, and wishing to be dead is a waste of that gift, and the book is about how he gradually comes to realise that it is better to live life, with all its pain and frustration, than try and share death. He is helped along his journey by Michael and Laura, two newly deceased people who are still becoming accustomed to their lack of life. Beagle is eloquent about ghosts and about how it's really the living who haunt the dead, not the other way around. In fact, much of the book is taken up with philosophical discussion of death, life, love and various other things. Some of the language is a little dated, along with the characters, but the ideas remain as fresh as ever.
Buy it. Read it. Read it over again. Like any Beagle novel, it's one to be treasured.
Then we have Michael and Laura falling in love in this same cemetery - a doomed love as they're both already dead.
Throw in Mrs Klapper who comes to visit her dearly departed husband, and you have the strangest little collection of lost souls that you could imagine.
Examining the dialogue between these characters, it all seems pretty harmless, even tame stuff, if you like. And yet the images of these characters float around in your head for long after the final page.
It's real cutesy, but underneath you can sense some real home truths floating across these cold headstones.
I wouldn't go mad about the book, but somehow it's comforting to know that it will always be there in my collection.
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