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A Separate Peace by John Knowles

A Separate Peace (1959)

by John Knowles

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This was required reading for me in high school and, as a result, I don't think I read any of it. I hated my 10th grade English class, and since this book was associated with that class, I hated this book.

I decided to seriously read it now, at 27, and I have to say that this book is a masterpiece. Great literature is used and abused in high school (not necessarily the fault of teachers). Time and maturity bring these brilliant works into light. ( )
  cknick | Dec 14, 2016 |

This is one of my favourite books from years ago. I've read and re-read it quite a few times. As soon as I saw that the Beach Resort where I was staying had a copy I didn't look back. It was impossible for me to put it down once I began skimming it and I still own an original copy at home. It made my day. Beach Reading it is not...
Amazing how some books stick in the mind thirty years after you read them (in a British Council Literature Class). I still remember the utter shock when Finny died! It was so sad darn it!
The book shows great examples of how dramatic it is to be an adolescent.

Finny is for the ages!" ( )
  antao | Dec 10, 2016 |
Just finished this book.. for the 2nd time. Still gets 4 stars. I understood a lot more this time around. Excellent story. ( )
  homeschoolmimzi | Nov 28, 2016 |
Gene, a very intelligent teenager, has just enrolled into Devon, an all boy's school. He first meets his roommate Phineas, who is very athletic, but not very bright. Finny forms a natural bond with Gene, and they decide to form a special, with requires jumping from a big tree into a lake as part of the induction process. When Finny guilts Gene into going to the tree one night, Gene fails his math test the next day and becomes paranoid that Finny deliberately sabotaged him. One day at the lake, they are both standing on a tree limb, and Gene bounces the branch causing Finny to fall. He breaks his leg, and refused to believe that it was a deliberate act. When Gene tries to confess, Finny was still in utter denial. Until one day, when Brinker, a very smart student who dorms across the hall, calls both Gene and Finny in to find the truth. After a strong interrogation of Gene, Finny begins to realize that it might have actually been on purpose and storms out. However, because of his broke leg, he falls down the stairs while running out and breaks his good one. Gene visits him in the hospital and tells him that he really did bounce of the branch on propose. Finny dies that night, which the doctor said was unlikely for the simple and common procedure on his leg. He likely died of a broken heart.

This novel, taking place during the eve of World War II, is filled with many levels of love, jealousy, anger, and confusion. What makes this story so captivating is the amount John Knowles allows the reader to infer and fill in for him or herself. For example, I have a theory that Gene and Finny are actually gay. I believe that Knowles intended for Gene to have confusing feelings about his friend Finny, and channeled it into anger. His only response to these alien feelings was to channel them into violence. At the end of the book,when Finny finds out that Gene pushed knocked him off the tree on purpose, he count handle it. In the midst of war, Gene was Finny's one and only constant. He was his solid,stable rock who he could always rely on. When he finally found out that even he betrayed him, he simply couldn't take. When the last thing keeping him alive shattered, so did Finny's heart.

This heart-breaking, coming-of-age novel is a must read! It is somehow both uplifting and soul crushing at the same time. This novel had everything from jealousy, love, friendship, and war. It was also very easy to read, and didn't go into excessive detail. I would definitely recommend it to a friend! ( )
  mattflem15 | Nov 8, 2016 |
Separate Peace by John Knowles is a coming-of-age novel well-known in the USA which I discovered through The Mooksie and the Gripes. I wasn’t able to source a copy of the book, but the Casey-Cardinia Library had an audio-book so old that it was on cassette. There is now only one cassette player in our house, so I had to listened to it in my library while I read my email, attended to the bills and wrapped Xmas presents, which was probably not the best way to enjoy this remarkable book. I’ve now mooched a copy because I think it’s worthy of attentive reading.


Set in a boys’ school called Devon just as WW2 is belatedly beginning for Americans, it’s the story of the intense relationship between two boys, Phineas (Finny) a gifted athlete and Gene, the most gifted scholar in the school. A natural leader, Finny forms a ‘Super Suicide Society of the Summer Session’ with an induction ritual that involves jumping from a huge tree into the Devon River. He has an insouciant air, a cheerful contempt for school rules, and a complete lack of interest in academic achievement. It is not until their activities impact on Gene’s school performance and he fails a maths test, that he begins to question their relationship and comes to believe that Finny’s demands are deliberately planned out of jealousy to sabotage his academic achievements. Quite why Gene’s impulse for revenge comes after this suspicion is revealed and Finny tells him that his carelessness about the need to study is simply because he thinks that study comes as naturally to Gene as sporting accomplishment comes naturally to him, is no doubt the subject of many a high school essay, but it has disastrous results Gene feels intense shame when he contrasts his suspicions with Finny’s frank and open-hearted character and tries to confess, but Finny won’t hear it of it.

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2008/12/06/a-separate-peace-by-john-knowles-narrated-by-matthew-modine/ ( )
  anzlitlovers | Aug 15, 2016 |
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To Bea and Jim with gratitude and love
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I went back to Devon School not long ago, and found it looking oddly newer than when I was a student there fifteen years before.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
A Separate Peace is a story about two young boys who are close friends and go to Devon school together. Phineas, the more athletic of the two, and Gene, the more intellectually inclined seem to balance eachother out. The story is set in New England during WWII. It is full of insight, friendship, and also a tragedy. I really enjoyed this book because I found it to be one of the more interesting yet realistic stories that I have had to read for an English class. It was also fun because in my English class we had to make videos of different scenes of the book and I just had a lot of fun with it.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0743253973, Paperback)

Set at a boys’ boarding school in New England during the early years of World War II, A Separate Peace is a harrowing and luminous parable of the dark side of adolescence. Gene is a lonely, introverted intellectual. Phineas is a handsome, taunting, daredevil athlete. What happens between the two friends one summer, like the war itself, banishes the innocence of these boys and their world.

A bestseller for more than thirty years, A Separate Peace is John Knowles’s crowning achievement and an undisputed American classic.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:46 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Set at a boys' boarding school in New England during the early years of World War II, A Separate Peace is a harrowing and luminous parable of the dark side of adolescence. Gene is a lonely, introverted intellectual. Phineas is a handsome, taunting, daredevil athlete. What happens between the two friends one summer, like the war itself, banishes the innocence of these boys and their world. A bestseller for more than thirty years, A Separate Peace is John Knowles's crowning achievement and an undisputed American classic.… (more)

» see all 9 descriptions

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