Alice's Reviews > A Fine & Private Place

A Fine & Private Place by Peter S. Beagle
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May 29, 2015

really liked it
bookshelves: 2013tbrchallenge, fantasy, urban-fantasy, classic, 2013, favorites
Read from February 10 to 17, 2013

This is the first book I've read for my 2013 TBR Reading Challenge, because I've been meaning to read it since I picked it up and got it signed by the author, several years ago. I find it astounding that this book was written when he was 19, though it does read like a debut.

A Fine and Private Place follows several characters' lives (and unlives) in a cemetery in New York City. Jonathan Rebeck is a hermit who lives in a mausoleum, and who comforts the dead as they forget who they are. Michael Morgan and Laura Durand are ghosts, people dead before their time. Campos is the night guard. His ethnicity is never directly given, but he sings in Spanish. Mrs. Gertrude Klapper is a widow who spots Mr. Rebeck, and learns that he lives in the cemetery.

The cemetery, being set apart from the world, proves a slow and easygoing setting. Most of the book involves musings on life and death and souls, musings that are far beyond anything I might've concluded about death at 19. They're far wiser than what I think of it now, even. The characters speak of death with a quiet acceptance and a willingness to move on I can't imagine a teenager able to grasp.

Having met Peter Beagle, it doesn't surprise me that he's always had such self-aware contemplation, but it still awed me.

The book still reads as a debut novel because the pacing is uneven. The main conflict stays on the back burner, as ghosts fall in love and Mr. Rebeck refuses to leave the cemetery and the raven (unnamed, and so not listed in the characters above) brings Mr. Rebeck his meals. There are several mentions of the trial of Michael Morgan's wife, but the repercussions don't arrive until the last 50 pages.

Along the way, the language is downright poetic, and so the meandering pace of the story didn't bother me. It's the jarring shift to tension that stood out, the sudden urgency to reunite the ghostly lovers.

After this book, Peter Beagle went on to write the classic The Last Unicorn, which is different in subject and pacing, but not in atmosphere. The language is all there, the potential to write everything he's written since.

As a debut novel, it's excellent, but overshadowed by his more popular work. Nonetheless, I would highly recommend it to those who wish to contemplate love and life and death.
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Quotes Alice Liked

Peter S. Beagle
“There are honest people in the world, but only because the devil considers their asking prices ridiculous.”
Peter S. Beagle, A Fine and Private Place

Peter S. Beagle
“I'll tell you something. Once I was very fond of a poem by Emily Dickinson or somebody. I only remember one line of it, but it goes, 'The soul selects her own society.' I used to tell it to everybody. Once I quoted it to a friend of mine, and he said, 'Maybe, but the body gets thrown into bed with the goddamnedest people.”
Peter S. Beagle, A Fine and Private Place

Peter S. Beagle
“Sitting up all night would be pointless if somebody you loved wasn't sitting up with you, picking out music to play and helping you kill the bourbon. Walking by yourself in the rain is for college kids who think loneliness makes poets.”
Peter S. Beagle, A Fine and Private Place

Peter S. Beagle
“... some things aren't any good unless they're shared. Sitting up all night would be pointless if somebody you loved wasn't sitting up with you, picking out music to play and helping you kill the bourbon. Walking by yourself in the rain is for college kids who think loneliness makes poets.”
Peter S. Beagle, A Fine and Private Place

Peter S. Beagle
“The dead," he had said once, "need nothing from the living, and the living can give nothing to the dead." At twenty-two, it had sounded precocious; at thirty-four, it sounded mature, and this pleased Michael very much. He had liked being mature and reasonable. He disliked ritual and pomposity, routine and false emotion, rhetoric and sweeping gestures. Crowds made him nervous. Pageantry offended him. Essentially a romantic, he had put away the trappings of romance, although he had loved them deeply and never known.”
Peter S. Beagle, A Fine and Private Place


Reading Progress

02/12/2013 page 82
26.0%
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Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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Caitlin (Ayashi) I have been wanting to read this FOREVER so hopefully I'll make the time for it this year :) glad you liked it!


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