A Fine and Private Place


In order to promote the classic works of "older" SFF authors who are sadly not as widely read as he feels they should be in this day and age, George R. R. Martin selected Peter S. Beagle's A Fine and Private Place as the first title I should read and review for losing our NFL wager. Beagle is better known for The Last Unicorn, but A Fine and Private Place is GRRM's favorite work by the celebrated speculative fiction writer.

As I felt was the case with Jack Vance's Tales of the Dying Earth, I was afraid of the possibility that this book had not aged well. Nothing could be further from the truth. Granted, the current edition contains Beagle's most recent set of revisions. Yet I get the feeling that A Fine and Private Place is an ageless story that should strike a chord with countless readers, both old and new.

Nearly two decades before, Jonathan Rebeck turned his back on his life and elected to make his home in the Bronx's Yorkchester Cemetery. Befriending the newly dead, he lives in an abandoned mausoleum. Other than the spirits of the dead, Mr. Rebeck's only companion is a talking raven. Then one day, this eccentric recluse's existence is disrupted by an unlikely love story between two ghosts. Soon, Rebeck is drawn toward a living woman who visits the cemetery, and nothing will ever be the same again.

Written in a thoughtful prose filled with grace, A Fine and Private Place is a tale of love and what it means to be alive -- and dead. At times sad and at times whimsical, it's a wonderful story of hope.

NYC being one of my two favorite cities in the world, I was delighted to be brought back in time to a "New York that was." As I mentioned, though the story occurs during the sixties, it is nevertheless accessible to basically any reader looking for a quality read. It truly has that "timeless" feel. . .

Although the narrative sets the mood, it's the characterization which infuses this one with life. Jonathan Rebeck might be the principal protagonist, and yet it's the ghosts of Michael and Laura who are the veritable heart of the novel. And the raven steals the show in every scene it appears in.

This book has remained in print for decades and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand why. I'm glad Martin "punished me" by forcing me to read this one. A Fine and Private Place is considered a modern fantasy classic, and you won't get any argument from me.

Peter S. Beagle will soon release We Never Talk About my Brother (Canada, USA, Europe), a collection of short stories that I will probably take a look at, hopefully sooner than later.

If, like me, you have yet to give Beagle a chance, A Fine and Private Place will not disappoint. Moreover, it will undoubtedly make you want to read more of Peter S. Beagle's body of work.

The final verdict: 7.75/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

9 commentaires:

Drew Bowling said...

A Fine and Private Place is great, but I have to recommend The Innkeeper's Song. Hard for me to decide whether I enjoy that book more than The Last Unicorn. Beagle maintains that The Innkeeper's Song is the best book he ever wrote, and he might very well be right. In any case, it is tragically obscure and deserves much more attention.

Mishel said...

I feel so behind. I have yet to read anything by Beagle, including The Last Unicorn. I think I'll try this book first. The blurb sounds like I would really enjoy it (=

Anonymous said...

"Modern fantasy classic" == 7,75/10

yet basically every book you review gets that much, eh:)

Dream Girlzzz said...

Don't care much for the Dallas Cowboys myself (I'm a Steelers fan!), so I think it's good that you've lost two years running. GRRM's selections have worked with me so far, so I'm curious to see what the next two books he'll choose will be!;)

Anon: Few books Pat reviews get 7.75 or more. That score is usually enough to get a book on his annual Top 10 if memory serves me right...

William Lexner said...

A Fine and Private Place is my top pick from Beagle, as well.

Great fantasy.

Neth said...

Pat, as a fellow Cowboys fan, I have to make something absolutely clear to you.

YOU ARE BANNED FROM BETTING WITH GRRM ABOUT THE COWBOYS

Whatever other problems the Cowboys have right now, your bets are clearly further bad luck and I think any true football fan knows that you must honor superstition. Get out now - find some AFC team to bet against the Jets.

Eoz said...

yet another one to add to The List for me, I'm so behind!

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with the comment about The Innkeeper's Song. That one is my hands down favorite Beagle book. There is so much subtext in this one that multiple reads are a must!

Katie said...

I absolutely adore Beagle. He and GRRM are two of my all-time favorite fantasy writers. I would also highly recommend 'Tamsin' by Beagle, which is usually housed in the YA sections at bookstores. It's another really brilliant ghost story with truly vibrant characters. It's actually my favorite of his.