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A Fine & Private Place    by Peter S. Beagle order for
Fine & Private Place
by Peter S. Beagle
Order:  USA  Can
Tachyon, 2007 (1960)
* * *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Peter S. Beagle's A Fine & Private Place was originally published in 1960. It is such a wonderful work of literature that I am surprised I have not come across it until now, almost fifty years since it was first released. Mr. Rebek has lived in the Yorkchester Cemetery in Brooklyn for nineteen years with only a raven and ghosts for company. The raven brings him food, clothes, chess pieces, and news of the outside world. The ghosts, who usually only last for three days, bring him the only semblance of human company he can bear. One ghost, however, turns his whole world upside down.

Michael is not pleased when Mr. Rebek informs him that ghosts last only as long as they can remember what it was like to be alive, which is usually only a few days. Determined to have a full life after death, Michael works hard at sticking around, and even gets another ghost, Laura, to join him. Soon a relationship develops between them, and one begins to build for Mr. Rebek, too. Deep in a chess game one day with Michael, Mr. Rebek fails to notice a woman coming up the path until it is too late to hide. Mr. Rebek reminds Mrs. Klapper of her late husband, so she easily falls into conversation with him. However, Mr. Rebek believes that he, like the ghosts, can never leave the cemetery and this hinders his developing a relationship with Mrs. Klapper. Eventually he must decide whether to overcome his fears to help his friends or stay hidden from everything, even himself.

Beagle's writing is full of poetic images, making it easy to picture the characters and the cemetery. Also, even though it is populated by talking ravens and almost-living ghosts, his writing is very realistic and comforting. Despite it's not being a fast-paced novel, the reader gets swept up in Mr. Rebek's world, hoping that he makes the right choice, but knowing there is a possibility that he will forget everyone again and continue his ghost-like existence. A Fine & Private Place should be valued as a modern literary classic. Peter S. Beagle has written a gem of a novel that has gone largely unnoticed over the past half century. Hopefully, this new release will bring it to the forefront so that more people can discover this captivating book.

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