Fine and Private Place

Beagle, Peter. A Fine and Private Place. New York: Viking, 1960.

For starters I have to say I love first novels. It’s that “dammit, im gonna do it” book. That leaping off point of either ‘no return and so I write’, or ‘that failed so I go back to whatever it was I had been doing before I put pen to paper’ (or whatever method they use these days). In Peter Beagle’s case I think A Fine and Private Place was a huge success.

A Fine and Private Place is haunted yet humorous. It takes place in a cemetery with a talking black bird (a sarcastic one at that) and a homeless man as its residents. The dead have issues with remembering yet have no problem complaining to the living man lurking in their midst. That man would be Mr. Rebeck, the one time druggist who now spends his days (and nights) in the New York cemetery. In fact, he hasn’t left the grounds in nearly twenty years. A Fine and Private Place delves into what it means to have a soul, even if it gets lost from time to time. It’s the story of different relationships struggling to make it despite the differences. Throughout the story there are minor mysteries. Why, for example, is Mr. Rebeck living in the cemetery? Did Michael Malone’s wife really murder him? And, what’s with the talking bird? Don’t expect a lot of action from A Fine and Private Place. The majority of the story is filled with introspective musings and the plot is centered on character development and how those characters interact with one another.

Two of my favorite lines, “He had begun to tell her about the raven when he realized that Mrs. Kapper’s credulity had been stretched as far as it would go and would snap back at the slightest mention of a profane black bird bringing him food” (p 145), and “He hastily subpoenaed a sleepy smile” (p 158).

BookLust Twist: Perfect for Halloween, although it wasn’t scary – from More Book Lust in the chapter called, “Gallivanting in the Graveyard” (p 96).

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