Sunday, January 4, 2009

A Fine and Private Place by Peter Beagle

afppcoverA Fine and Private Place by Peter Beagle 264 pgs. 1960 5/5 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.

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