by Ursula K Le Guin

Paperback, 1982



Call number



Panther (1982), Paperback


Irene resents Hugh's intrusion into the otherworld she has found, but the two unhappy young people are drawn together on their quest to destroy a terrible beast. Recommended.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Jim53
The Beginning Place begins as the story of Hugh Rogers, a young man who lives with his demanding mother, works in a grocery store, and feels "kinda stuck." Trying to run away from his painful life, Hugh accidentally discovers a portal into another place, a sort of twilight land, which eases his spirit. He begins to visit the place regularly. One day he meets Irene, who has been visiting the twilight land for years, and who regards it as her own special place. Irene resents Hugh's masculine intrusion into the place that serves as a refuge from her own unpleasant life.

Irene takes Hugh to meet the inhabitants if Mountain Town, where she has been welcomed and has fallen in love with the Master of the town. The town's inhabitants can no longer travel on the roads because of a nameless fear. Hugh, who does not feel the fear, agrees to confront it on their behalf. He has fallen in love with Allia, daughter of Lord Horn and a rather insipid creature who reminded me of Lucy Mannette. Resentfully, Irene translates for Hugh to enable him to communicate with the residents, and agrees to lead him where he must go.

Irene accompanies Hugh on his journey to meet and confront the monster that threatens the town. In doing this, of course, both are facing the fears and conditions that have made their lives miserable, and they can succeed only in each other's company.

One could read this as an allegory describing how readers use books (the twilight land) to find a way to safely confront the issues with which they cannot deal directly in their daily lives. This is no unsubtle Narnia, however; LeGuin weaves mythic elements and everyday details into an adventure story that is both eloquent and moving. Hugh and Irene are well drawn characters, and the characters and the events support each other to create an interesting and rewarding read. My favorite of this great author's "minor" works.
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LibraryThing member wyvernfriend
A fairly inaccurate cover, a story that does read like a nearly first novel, it's not her best but it is early work by her and I prefer it to some of her later stuff. I'm going to have to read it again to see if I understand it properly. A fantasy romance now billed as a young adult book.
LibraryThing member Amtep
A quiet and unhurried story. There is a sense of calm in the writing, even when it describes action.

The author tells very little about the world around the "beginning place", and that creates a sense of mystery and wonderment that I enjoyed. I'm still curious, though.
LibraryThing member weener
The Beginning Place starts as the story of Hugh, a clueless but likeable young shlub, who is bored by his job as a grocery bagger and frustrated with his relationship with his self-centered, unloving mother. When Hugh discovers a mysterious place in the woods near the outside of town where it is always evening and time elapses much more slowly, his life is filled with intrigue and enjoyment for seemingly the first time.

Hugh soon meets Irene, a young woman who discovered this place many years before and is determined to keep it for herself. However, when their mystery place is threatened a mysterious and malevolent force, these two must band together to save it. What they learn on their journey together brings them to a new sort of place, both within this magical place and in the "real world." By the time they have finished their quest, both Hugh and Irene have changed in ways they never expected.
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LibraryThing member chicjohn
Seriously good writing
LibraryThing member thatpirategirl
This book starts out beautifully and sort of collapses before it gets anywhere interesting. I'm always willing to eat up a story about introverted youths discovering secret worlds and going on quests that help them come of age, and it's true that this one evokes that feeling of aimless yearning that made up about 80% of my teenage brain. But as far as the story goes, this is the most bare-bones version of this plot that I can imagine.

The protagonists come across a nice little village that needs help, but we're never told what the problem is, what caused it, or how it can be solved. Maybe the specifics are vague so the ensuing quest will be experienced more as a metaphor. But as a result it ends up feeling inauthentic -- the characters change without experiencing anything that would lead to that change, at least not as abruptly as it happens here.

It's hard not to compare this book to The Magicians, which is a more realistic take on the same kind of story. But even beyond the thematic issues, the real problem is that the book is 3/4 of the way over before the quest begins, and then most of the quest is the anticipation of walking through the wilderness. There are some appealing aspects of this story and I wanted to like it, but it never really came together for me.
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LibraryThing member amaraduende
This was strange, and good.
LibraryThing member gypsysmom
I really don't remember this book. From the back cover: "In the magic world of Tembreabrezi, across a stream in a place of sweet water, gentle folk, and eternal twilight, two young people from the outside world meet and fall in love. Poised on the edge of adulthood, they are seeking refuge from the harsh realities of growing up. Then a shadow falls on their special place. Now they must fight to free themselves fromt he evil that casts a darkness on Tembreabrezi, and ont heir newfound happiness."… (more)
LibraryThing member wealhtheowwylfing
Hugh is trapped in suburbia and a dead-end job by his mother's fear. Desperate for escape, he goes running one night and finds a gateway into an idyllically fresh world. The clean water and air, the lack of humans, makes him return to it again and again. But he's not the only one to have found the gate--years ago, Irena discovered the way through while escaping from her gruesome step-father. She feels betrayed that someone else has found her secret spot, but the villagers who live in this perpetually twilit Arcadia are excited--he's the one they've been waiting for.

The roads to the village have been closed by an unamable fear. The villagers are slowly starving, and only Hugh the outsider can get through the roads. Irena demands to go with him, and the two set off together.

On the one hand, this is a pleasingly realistic book. Hugh and Irena spend a lot of time getting lost in the woods, and their internal lives are perfectly described. On the other, not a lot happens, and what little happens is never explained. The story is a bit like Steinbeck's writing style crossed with Patricia McKillip at her most elliptical. This is my least favorite book by Le Guin. It's not bad, but it's not all that good, either.
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LibraryThing member melydia
Not Le Guin's best. A man and woman independently find the entrance to another world and meet each other in the process. This other world is having some nebulous problems that prevent the townsfolk from traveling outside the city limits, and for some reason the man and woman have to do something about it, but whether or not they do is not entirely clear. The romance feels forced and the ending was very unsatisfying. I wanted to know more about the other world, but it seems to have been invented just as a means to get the two leads together. Too bad; it was the most interesting part.… (more)
LibraryThing member juniperSun
I've marked this as a YA because the attitudes of the 2 main characters seem to reflect that time of uncertainty/change/figuring out how to move on with your life. And yet their age is given as early 20's. Nowadays we'd expect this emotional state to be that of, perhaps, 16 year olds. I suppose that makes it an old-fashioned tale, along with the heroism, the tale of a quest. The point of view of the chapters switches between Irena & Hugh, giving us their back story as well as different perspectives on the events after they meet "across the Threshold".
It was an interesting read, not quite what I expected from LeGuin, but all right. I do think it's the kind of story that will be pondered in the back of my mind for a bit.
This tale has a sense of timelessness which reminds me of The Wall, time just going on and on, no meaning to time--it is irrelevant. I was very attracted to the sense of sureness had by Hugh & Irena both, when they arrived in a place of total acceptance and safety, or were doing what was their purpose--fulfilling their role. Made me wish I were better at "going with the flow."
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LibraryThing member RealLifeReading
Alas and alack, The Beginning Place is not beginning well for me. And there will be no ending because I am going to give it up and look for greener pastures. The story of Hugh Rogers, price checker at a supermarket who lives with his mother within walking distance of his workplace is not doing anything for me. I didn’t really care what this sad example of a man was doing running towards a stream. His life was just a little pathetic and I didn’t want to find out what happens to him. I was just thinking of how we first meet Ged in A Wizard of Earthsea (The Earthsea Cycle, Book 1). I guess writers have their, um, off-books… (more)


Original publication date


Physical description

176 p.; 6.9 inches


0586054073 / 9780586054079
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