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Literature / A Fine and Private Place

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A Fine and Private Place is a fantasy novel by Peter S. Beagle, first published in 1960.

Jonathan Rebeck lives secretly in a large cemetery which he hasn't set foot out of in years, kept company by a talking raven that brings him food and by such ghosts as still take an interest. As the novel progresses, he becomes acquainted with the troubles of two recently-interred ghosts, Michael and Laura, and also encounters a living visitor to the cemetery who might give him reason to finally return to the land of the living.


Not to be confused with the Ellery Queen novel of the same name.

This novel contains examples of:

  • Ambiguous Ending: Rebeck's plan to help Michael and Laura requires him to leave the cemetery. When he does, he loses the ability to see ghosts, so he — and thus the audience — has no way to know for sure whether the plan worked.
  • Artistic License – Ornithology: That a raven in a fantasy novel should be a bit out of the usual range for ravens is no big deal ... but a quick look at a field guide would have told the author that ravens are completely black, and do not have golden eyes, yellow bills or yellow feet.
  • Clever Crows: The raven helps and cares for Jonathan Rebeck, bringing him food and, later, news. Subverts the traditional creepiness of corvids; despite being a Talking Animal, the raven is one of the most down-to-earth and least eldritch things in the book.
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  • Conditional Powers: Rebeck's ability to see ghosts and speak with the raven is connected to his liminal existence in the cemetery; when he leaves at the end of the novel he loses both.
  • Dead to Begin With: Michael and Laura.
  • Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: Happens to Rebeck when Michael and Laura are arguing about which of them will last longest before fading away:
    "Oh, for God's sake," Mr. Rebeck thought, "shut up!"
    Not until he saw the astonished looks on their faces did he realize he had said it aloud.
  • Ghost Amnesia: Ghosts gradually forget their lives, and become less detailed and less definite in appearance as they forget what they looked like. Michael has an additional issue where, even newly-dead, he can't remember exactly how he died.
  • I See Dead People: Jonathan Rebeck.
  • Literary Allusion Title: "The grave's a fine and private place / But none, I think, do there embrace." (Andrew Marvell, "To His Coy Mistress")
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  • Our Ghosts Are Different
  • Suicide Is Shameful: Near the end of the book, it's revealed that Michael poisoned himself. As a result of this discovery, his body is to be removed from hallowed ground, also parting him from Laura.
  • Talking Animal: Rebeck can understand the raven's speech, although it's suggested that this is a consequence of Rebeck's condition and not a sign that the raven is anything special.


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