This was a fantastic read. I really had no idea what to expect, and even then it wasn't anything like I expected. It is a wonderfully witty funny stor...moreThis was a fantastic read. I really had no idea what to expect, and even then it wasn't anything like I expected. It is a wonderfully witty funny story about a boy with a rather unique outlook on life. Possibly because he was struck by a meteor at age 10, or possibly because his mother read tarot cards for a living, or possibly just because he was born that way. Or, well, its a witty funny wrapping around a compelling and deeply emotional core. Read it. It is good.(less)
This book was so fantastic. I really wasn't sure in what direction this author could possibly go in after The Gone Away World, that book was so unique...moreThis book was so fantastic. I really wasn't sure in what direction this author could possibly go in after The Gone Away World, that book was so unique and wonderful. And this book tops it. This book is EVEN BETTER. (less)
The writing style was awkward in some places and the characters are predictable, but this was definitely an easy read. It keeps you going, I finished...moreThe writing style was awkward in some places and the characters are predictable, but this was definitely an easy read. It keeps you going, I finished it in one sitting and don't regret it.(less)
Good, but a bit slow. I've always had trouble with journal-style writing though. I always want to know what ACTUALLY happened, not just what the autho...moreGood, but a bit slow. I've always had trouble with journal-style writing though. I always want to know what ACTUALLY happened, not just what the author/character chooses to say. Which, yes, is the case with ALL books, and which is THE POINT of writing a story as it if were a journal. But, there's just something frustrating about it. Also, my own journals never actually read that way, so I have trouble falling into the reality of the story.
However, it was an excellent look into the mind of a book-loving awkward teenage girl, which is something I can identify with immensely. And the whole thing is chock full of book recommendations. Every page had me either adding a new book to my "to-read" list, or chortling to myself and feeling proud because I'd already discovered that author and loved that book.(less)
I absolutely loved Peter S. Beagle's A Fine and Private Place. I was first introduced to Beagle as a child, in the form of the animated movie of The L...moreI absolutely loved Peter S. Beagle's A Fine and Private Place. I was first introduced to Beagle as a child, in the form of the animated movie of The Last Unicorn. Ever since then, I can't resist a book by him. Especially if its sitting on the shelf in a dusty old used book store; which is how I ran into this one.
A Fine and Private Place is the story of an anthrophobic older gentleman who has been living and hiding in a graveyard for the last eighteen years. Jonathan Rebeck has not once crossed the boundaries of the graveyard in nearly two decades. In so completely removing himself from society, Jonathan has found himself able to see and converse with the recently dead characters he finds in his graveyard. A misanthropic raven has befriended him, and brings him food and other survival items he is able to steal out of the nearby city.
The story is also about two recently dead people, Laura and Michael. Both were unhappy and unlucky in love in their lives, and are completely unsure about what to do with themselves in death. Michael is convinced that his wife murdered him. Laura got hit by a city bus, but seems not entirely convinced that she didn't step out in front of it intentionally. Laura craves the silence and forgetfulness of true death, but can't seem to reach that inner peace. While Michael is determined not to let go of a single emotion or memory of life, even though Jonathan warns him that all the ghosts forget everything and fade away eventually.
Jonathan reaches out to the outside world for the first time when he encounters a widow visiting the gravesite of her husband. He befriends her, and suddenly finds himself wondering about the normal things again. He worries about his appearance, and wants to impress her, but he still can't force himself to step beyond the boundaries of his graveyard.
(view spoiler)[ Eventually, Laura and Michael decide that though they couldn't find love in life, they have found it after death, in eachother. They pledge to love eachother, for as long as they can remember what love is. But then it is revealed that Michael's wife has successfully defended herself in court. She is not a murderer, Michael commited suicide. Since Michael was catholic, his body is going to be disinterred, and moved to a non-catholic graveyard. Michael the ghost is tied to his body, and will not be able to stay with Laura in this graveyard. Laura appeals to Jonathan, as the only living person she knows. She wants Jonathan to secretly dig her up, and transport her to the same graveyard Michael now resides in. But Jonathan still can't leave the graveyard, he can't find it in himself to even look beyond the gates. Eventually, Jonathan overcomes his fear, and asks his widow friend for help. With the assistance of a strange night guard at the graveyard (who can also see ghosts; Beagle implies it is because he is mentally ill) Jonathan and the widow dig up Laura's coffin and take it across the city, to bury it in an unmarked grave within the boudaries of the other graveyard.
The moment the truck passes through the gate of the graveyard, Jonathan can no longer see or hear Laura. He knows she is there, but he also knows that he will never be able to go back to his graveyard. It was not the boundaries of the graveyard that gave him this ability, but his removal from living society. He was only half-alive before, and so walked the line between the living and the dead. But now that he has once again begun to care about the future, and interact with the world outside, he has lost that connection to the dead. He will not be able to sense the reunion between the dead lovers, his friends. But he will return with the widow, and begin a new life with her, and be alive again.
(hide spoiler)] I think what really made this book work for me was the quiet and subdued style that Beagle wrote in. It was not full of drama and emotion, even though the actual events were fairly traumatic. But the dead don't have strong emotions, and a graveyard is a quiet and private place.
I was also struck by the similarities between this graveyard, and Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book. I know Gaiman has said he's always been a fan of Peter S. Beagle, and I like to think he drew inspiration from this story. Both stories focus on the choices people can make after death, to forget and let go, or to desperately hold onto what made them who they thought they were. Both books show time continuing after death, but not change. The dead are not alive, even if they move and speak, they are frozen in who they were, they cannot change. Life comes through change. Both books also have the unusual perspective of viewing the living world from the outside, from the line between death and life, from inside the graveyard.
In the end, this was a lovely story about overcomming fear, and about living for as long as you can. Not being alive for as long as you can, but about reaching for experiences, and love, and life. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
First, I'd like to preface this review by saying I know absolutely nothing about real aboriginal culture or history. I can't possibly tell you what is...moreFirst, I'd like to preface this review by saying I know absolutely nothing about real aboriginal culture or history. I can't possibly tell you what is fact and what is pure creation by the author. This book is aparently extremely controversial because while some people love it as the tale of a spiritual journey amongst a mysterious native population, other people say that the author didn't accurately portray the culture truthfully, and was actually blatantly offensive.
I also have no idea if the author actually wanted this book to be taken as a mostly true story, or as just an extensive metaphor, a spiritual fable. It is written in the style of a memoire, and the author writes that it is based on real events, but it is shelved as fiction. Personally, I think that if any of it is actually "based in reality," its really just an extrapolation of one night she spent camping in the desert and probably got a bit high. Wikipedia states that eventually she condeded that she made the story up, but... well... its wikipedia.
All of that said, I'm not going to evaluate this book on the intentions of its author, or the dubiousness of its origins, but only on the story and the message itself.
This is the story of a typical middle aged american woman who is on buisness in Australia teaching methods of wholistic healing (she mentions acupuncture, theraputic massage, etc). She is invited to a "meeting" by a native aboriginie, and she thinks its her big moment. She thinks she's going to be recognized for all the good work she's done trying to help the lower-income mixed race young adults. At heart she is a city woman, and she sits on her high horse expecting to receive a pretty little plaque, a big thank you, and maybe a lunch buffet with some "authentic cuisine."
Maybe predictable, she quickly finds out that true aboriginal culture isn't anything like she expected. Still dressed in her buisness suit, heels and make-up she's driven out to the edge of the desert, told to remove all her clothing, jewelry and belongings and instead put on a rag dress so that she can be cleansed. Which she does. They then burn all of it, tell her she's going on a walk-about across Australia to "become one, and experience true beingness," and promptly head out into the desert on foot. Which she does. She's afraid and confused, but she follows them, and naively expects to back in the city by check out time at her hotel tomorrow.
What ensues is three months worth of ramblings, physically across the width of Australia, and mentally through various memories she has and spiritual realizations she comes to. It turns out that native aborigines can communicate telepathically, can heal broken bones overnight, and perform illusions to either disappear from sight, or to make one man look like 50 men. What is also mentions, and that I believe may actually be closer to the true culture, is that they can find water nearly anywhere within the desert, can eat just about anything, and have been using natural remedies that are completely unique and unknown to the rest of the world to cure various health problems that keep them surviving and able-bodied to an incredibly old age.
Eventually she finds out that she really is on her way to a meeting, of sorts. When she was born, a similar spirit was born in the exact same moment on the exact opposite side of the earth. She and her kindred spirit made plans to meet again in 50 years and share their experiences. It was her destiny that brought her here. A destiny that even a mysterious fortune teller in the tea-shop in the city told her, but that she just didn't understand until this moment... Right. It turns out that her companion spirit is the tribal elder, and they share many different things about their cultures, finding similarities and differences in elaborate metaphors. My favorite one: "It seems Mutants [their names for non-aboriginies] have something in their life called gravy. They know the truth, but it is buried under thickening and spices of convenience, materialism, insecurity and fear. They also have something in their lives called frosting. It seems to represent how they spend almost all the seconds of their existence in doing superficial, artificial, temporary, pleasant-tasting, nice-appearing projects, and spend very few actual seonds of their lives developing their eternal beingness."
Eventually they share with her their true secret. The aboriginies are leaving the world. When they die, they will become one with the world, they already are one with the world. But the mutant world holds no place for them anymore, so they have stopped having children. They need her to go out into the world, and take to the rest of the Mutants a message, teach them the things she has learned about being and oneness and the true intent of the universe. And so she does.
To be perfectly honest, this book was not for me. I found it over-written, and over-moralizing. It was a soap box of very little support, and distinctly unbalanced and prone to wobbling. I don't entirely disagree with its message, as a culture we most definitely place too much emphasis on materialistic gain within the short frantic time-span of our own lives. But I believe that taken seriously, this is a fanaticism of the opposite extreme. Growth and change are good and necessary. As well as personal identity, ambition to create, and not to mention will to survive.
In the end, the main character gallops out of the outback on a higher horse than the one she rode in on (metaphorically of course, though she does describe her now calloused feet as "hooves" several times). She is distressed that the local Mutants she tells her story to seem uninteresed in her grand philosophies of reincarnation and the one-ness of the universe. She encounters meanness and uglieness in the world that she hasn't had to deal with in the last three months, but proves to herself that she has grown in "beingness" by not being hurt and instead blessing the person that wronged her. She makes her way home, to a family that wants to hear her story, and with a willingness to tell it to the world.
Basically, if I take this book too seriously, it bothers me very deeply. But if I take a step back, and instead look at the silliness of the adventure of it, at a woman in a situation she is utterly not prepared for but willing to take a go at, its not so bad. I think maybe this story would have been greatly improved if the author had not claimed it was based in reality from the beginning. If she had rather decided to create a completely fictional native culture on a completely fictional world, and instead focused on making the message a subtly built piece of art that didn't have to worry about offending anyone on the planet we already live on, it might have actually held more meaning. Instead I just felt like she was bashing me in the head with a two by four carved with the message "you suck! aborigines rule!" ... or maybe not quite that obviously violet. Maybe instead this book made me feel like I was walking down the street and a slightly graying middle aged new-age hippie is sitting under a tree. And she reaches out her hand, and tries to lure me close with "Come, come smoke pot with me and feel at one with the universe! Here, eat this worm, its good for you. The aboriginies do it! They're right about everything. They're One. They are Beingness. They're sooooooo smart and soooooo ancient. I remember this one time...."(less)
I am a fan of Jasper Fforde. And when I say I'm a fan, I mean I started reading his books in middle school. The Eyre Affair was the book I recommended...moreI am a fan of Jasper Fforde. And when I say I'm a fan, I mean I started reading his books in middle school. The Eyre Affair was the book I recommended to everyone. My family bought each new installment of the TN series the moment it came out. In highschool, we flew to England to be there for the very first Fforde Ffestival. We bought a whole new set of the TN series just to have the british covers, and so that Fforde could sign them. And when he came to our random unimportant city to do a book reading and signing, we saw him there too. And waved creepily from the back of the room when he asked if anyone had made it to the Ffestival. We are Jasper Fforde fans.
And yet, this book didn't quite do it for me like his others. It was great, don't get me wrong. Its still better than even the good sci-fi/fantasy I normally read. But I didn't feel nearly the same connection to the characters that I'd become accustomed to. And while it was infinitely creative in the same way that Shades of Grey was, I felt it was a bit lacking in the intensity of its plot.
The "real" Thursday Next has gone missing, and the written Thursday has been thrown into the intrigues of the book world while trying to find her. In the process of which she gains a clock-work butler, meets the imaginary daughter of the real Thursday, promotes the Toast Marketing Board, and goes through the usual shenanigans with the cross genre taxis. And really, that's all I can say about the plot. Not because I don't want to give anything away (though I don't!), but also because the plot wasn't very involved or complicated by Fforde standards.
Mostly I felt that this novel was a chance for Fforde to show off his world-building skills. Which is great, I love the new wacky book world! It has his unique touch of slightly insane, completely illogical, but still possible to visually imagine and believe in!
This book was also chock full of the meta-references we've all come to love. I mean, who else could pull of writing a book, that's set inside a book that we've already read, which is set inside other books that we've read! ... And have it all actually sort of make sense! Sometimes though, it got to be a little much. I felt like he often broke narrative just for little reminders of Hey, you're reading about the book world! Or Look how clever I am to think of this idea! Yes, yes, Jasper Fforde you are insanely clever. I admire you greatly! But don't you think you could tell me a little more about this written Thursday Next? She's not *our* Thursday, we know that, you've told us that, but you haven't shown us that yet, not really. We can't love her yet, because we just don't know her!
(view spoiler)[ I will give Jasper Fforde props for the ending. Since about page 10, when I realized that the title "One of our Thursdays is Missing" didn't specify WHICH Thursday was missing, there were two things I desperately didn't want to happen. I didn't want it to turn out that the real Thursday was dead, and have the written Thursday become real and step right into our old Thursday's shoes. I'm not sure I could have kept reading the series if that had happened. And secondly, I didn't want it to turn out that the real Thursday had been mind-boggled into believing she was the written Thursday just to keep her safe from some other intrigue that was going on. And, Jasper Fforde, being the genius that he is, realized the readers might guess these things were possible! So what does he do? We take a little trip into psychological thriller, where characters try to convince our written Thursday that this is what's happened. But of course, he never intended to cheat us in that way, and the real Thursday is found alive and well. (hide spoiler)] My personal preference rating: **** In comparison to other Jasper Fforde novels: *** Will I continue to read Thursday Next: OF COURSE Will I reread this particular book: Probably, but not any time soon, and more likely just because Fforde will continue to write from the POV of the written Thursday, and I'll want to remember her early years. I currently have no particular attachment to this installment of the series.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)