A Fine and Private Place by Peter Beagle

afppcoverA Fine and Private Place by Peter Beagle
264 pgs. 

Ah, my first 5 star read of the year and it’s only the second book I read. It’s going to be a good reading year, I can tell. When I read The Last Unicorn, I thought it was amazing. Then I read Tamsin and it became my new favorite Peter Beagle book. I couldn’t imagine liking a book of his more than that one. But A Fine and Private Place surpasses even that. What blows me away is that this was Peter Beagle’s first novel. He wrote it when he was 19, yet there’s so much thought and beautiful language put into it. It was written in 1960, but reads like it could be written today. It’s a story for everyone. 

A Fine and Private Place is mostly a book about relationships between the living and the dead. We see relationships between a living person and a dead person, relationships between two dead people (or ghosts, that just sounds better), relationships where the living mourn the dead, and relationships between two people living trying to find their way in life. With all of these different relationships, you’d think the story would get confusing. But it doesn’t at all. They all thread together seamlessly. 

Mr. Jonathan Rebeck has spent the last nearly 20 years of his life living in a mausoleum in a cemetery. He shied away from life years ago and since then he has spent his time in solitude with the occasional company of a raven who brings him food and talks to him occasionally and a ghost named Michael. Mr. Rebeck has known many ghosts since his time at the cemetary, but Michael is the newest one and the one that we first meet. Mr. Rebeck befriends Michael as Michael clings to remember his life, his love, and his relationships. These things get hazy after being dead for awhile. We soon meet the lovely Laura, the ghost of a young woman who has recently passed. At first she wants nothing but to go to sleep and experience death, but soon grows the desire to cling to what little she can suck out of life still like Michael. The two form a bond if such a bond can be formed when the dead come together. But there is another woman thrown into the mix. Mrs. Klapper. Mrs. Klapper is not dead and does not live in a cemetary, but she comes to visit her husband who does since his demise. Upon discovering Mr. Rebeck one day, Rebeck is forced to make excuses for himself being in the cemetery. Surely he can’t tell her that he lives there…she would think he was crazy. The two form the most unlikely of friendships and converse over what it means to be truly alive while Rebeck spends his time with the dead. 

I can’t tell you how beautiful and perfect this book was. It was a fantastic first novel of the year. As I’m sure I said after I read Tamsin, I just want to devour everything that Peter Beagle has written. This man is a true talent who is superb at story telling and deserves the respect he has in the fantasy world. A Fine and Private Place is a very quite novel, but at the same time, it’s one that speaks volumes on the precious and semi-permanent thing that is life. This was a gift to me from Nymeth and I can’t thank her enough for it. It’s truly the best kind of gift.

If you want a copy of this book, there’s still plenty of time to enter my giveaway and request this as your title! I recommend that you do.


17 Responses

  1. This sounds so perfect! I’m hoping to read lots of Beagle this year as I just know I’m going to love him! Thanks, great review.

  2. wow, after Nymeth now you, how can I not read this book now?

  3. I can’t tell you how happy this review made me, Chris. I knew you’d love it too 😀 Were you reminded of Neil Gaiman at times? Because I can totally see this being a novel that influenced him.

    I want to read everything he’s written too. I have The Inkeeper’s Song waiting for me on the shelf…I should be reading it RIGH NOW.

  4. I can’t believe this was his first book! I loved it too-so sad I didn’t review it (it was during the no internet access, blog doldrums era). But I’m sure I’ll reread it, and then I’ll review it! 🙂

  5. It sounds sooo good. Those five star ones are always a wonderful way to start the year. -C

  6. Whoa. What a great review! This sounds like my kind of book. (In fact, can I change my choice for my selection in your giveaway? 🙂 Perfectly understandable if this is one you’d like to keep.

    Something about your description of this book reminds me of the HBO series “Six Feet Under”, which I am still mourning the loss of. I loved that show, and it sounds like this book will be just as good.

  7. Mariel, A year of Beagle sounds fantastic!! It’s such a great book…really, all of his books that I’ve read so far are great. Hope you enjoy it when you get to it!

    Valentina, You have to read it now :p Seriously, it’s fantastic..you’ll love it.

    Nymeth, I was definitely reminded of Neil Gaiman at times and wouldn’t doubt it if he’s a major influence of his. Gaiman has that same great sense of character as Beagle does. It was such a beautiful book and I want to go back to it already. Thank you so much Nymeth! it’s truly a book that I’ll cherish. Can’t wait to hear how the Inkeeper’s Song is!

    Eva, I know! Can you imagine writing something like this at 19? So much insight. You should go back and review it now :p I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!

    Carole, It’s fantastic! I have no doubt that you’d really enjoy this one. Now we just need The Constant Tower to come out! :p

    Betty and Boo’s Mommy, Thank you! You can certainly change your selection to this one! And have no fear….I won’t be giving away my copies of any of the books! I’ll buy new ones for the winners. You know I’ve never seen an episode of six feet under before? My ex girlfriend used to love that show too…I never watched it though…I’ll have to rent the dvds!

  8. Sounds wonderful!! I’ve never actually read a book by this author. Guess I’ll just have to look him up at the library the next time I’m there!

    Nice review!

  9. Isn’t it great to start off the year with a book that is so good? I just finished my first read of the year and it was all I could do to be slightly objective and give it a 4.75 instead of a 5 because I loved it.

    I’ve always love the title of this book. Certain book titles just stick in your head, even if you haven’t read them, and this is one of them. Amazing that it has this strong of an impact when it was his first novel. Some people are incredibly talented.

  10. Between your comments on this book (and Eva’s last year – that feels so wrong – last year? surely not!) and other reviews of his work, I’m really regretting letting The Innkeeper’s Song leave the bookshelf unread about 18 months ago… I really need to read some Beagle!

  11. Steph, Oh you really have to read some Peter Beagle!! He’s fantastic! Tamsin is a really good one to start with if they don’t have this one…of course there’ s the infamous The Last Unicorn as well!

    Carl, It really is great! I saw in your latest review that you gave it a 4.75 and though…come on, just give it a 5 :p I love the title of this book too. Paired with the cover image it really is something. I can’t believe it was his first novel..that man has some real talent!

    Bart, The Inkeeper’s Song is one that I haven’t read yet, but now that Nymeth is reading it soon, I’m sure I will be :p Go get it back! You need to read some Beagle indeed :p

  12. Oh my. Well, as I’m sure you could guess, this one went on the wish list after Nymeth’s review. And it looks like you’re going to push it over the edge and right into the cart. Funny how often that happens with the two of you. I can sometimes resist one incredible review, but start piling them up like this, and how’s a girl to resist?!!

  13. Debi, Hey, you do it to me too :p You and Nymeth have pulled the twofer on me before, lol. Anyway, I hope you really do get this one….you’ll love it for sure!

  14. Terrific review! I had to read this after seeing Nymeth’s review and I was so incredibly pleased with this book. I’m shocked that I hadn’t read it before being that The Last Unicorn was a childhood favorite. Now I’m on the hunt for Tamsin and Summerlong.

  15. I just saw this book on my shelf while I was looking for SF books for Carl’s Sci Fi experience! How can I have so many books to read already this year? Now this one has moved up to the top of my pile, thanks to your great review, Chris!!!!

  16. My favorite Beagle novel has always remained the first one I read, the Last Unicorn. But I do like Tamsin, too, and now really want to read this one! I’m going to go check and make sure I entered your giveaway.

  17. I love all the books of Peter S. Begle. He is my favourite writer and he is a very nice person. I recomend you to read every single book he wrote. He has also many super cool short stories you should read too.

    🙂 I hope you will enjoy as I do every single book I can get of him!

    Kind regards from Spain!

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