Edmund Fuller (review date 5 June 1962)
SOURCE: "Unique Recluse," in New York Times Book Review, June 5, 1962.
[In the review below, Fuller describes A Fine and Private Place as imaginative and witty.]
Peter S. Beagle makes a striking debut on several counts. With the first two paragraphs of A Fine and Private Place a style is established, a personality registered. We meet at once a talking raven, who is taking food (baloney) not to the prophet Elijah but to a retiring man named Jonathan Rebeck. This unique recluse had withdrawn in discouragement from a clamorous world some twenty years ago. He has lived ever since in an unattended mausoleum in a corner of Yorkchester, a vast interfaith cemetery in the upper Bronx. The raven has fed him all this while, as it explains, because "Ravens don't feel right without somebody to bring things to."
With the funeral of young Michael Morgan we discover that the dead haunt the cemetery for a time and that Mr. Rebeck has been sensitized by his strange life to the point where he can see and talk with them. Michael had been a disgruntled young history teacher and claims his wife poisoned him: later (through news fetched by the raven) we are able to follow her trial. Added to the cast are Laura, a faintly bitter ghost from a barren life, and Mrs. Klapper, a salty-tongued Bronx widow who, visiting her husband's mausoleum, discovers Mr. Rebeck and becomes a disturbing link to a...
(The entire section is 562 words.)