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A Separate Peace by John Knowles
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A Separate Peace (1959)

by John Knowles

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The characters were anything but likable and the story was stale. The only amusing part of the entire book was that we read it in tenth grade, so it was forty-five minutes of "They're gay, right?" everyday. No one in my class enjoyed it (the teacher even confessed afterwards that he hated it, but had to teach it because of curriculum). ( )
  benuathanasia | Jun 16, 2015 |
Emotional coming-of-age story. This book actually helped me understand teenage boys a bit better, even if it was set in World War II. ( )
  TrgLlyLibrarian | Feb 1, 2015 |
Earlier this week, I finished reading John Knowles’ seminal novel, A Separate Peace. I had the book checked out from the library for almost 8 weeks and it took me about that long to read it. It’s a short novel at just over 200 pages, but for some reason I just wasn’t compelled to constantly read it like I often am with other books. Not that it wasn’t good. I found it a very good book, deserving of its status as a “classic”. After all, a pivotal moment in the novel is purposely left ambiguous in order for the reader to draw his own conclusions. The reader’s interpretation of this event will color his entire perspective of the events that follow.

The book centers on two boys, Gene and Finny, who are roommates at an elite East Coast prep school during World War Two. An older Gene is the narrator, who has come back to visit this place that so profoundly affected him as a young man. He wanders the school’s grounds, providing the reader with a sense of foreboding before beginning a long flashback to the carefree summer of 1942. The United States had entered the Second Great War by this time, but you wouldn’t know it from the behavior of these boys during their summer session. With many of their professors gone for the summer, the boys have much time for game-playing and mischief-making. A secret society is formed, centered around a ritual of jumping out of a giant oak tree that overhangs a creek, which Finny performs first and then “shames” Gene into doing as well. Finny’s exuberance and enthusiasm for everything he does draws the others boys to him and makes him a natural leader. His effortless athletic ability, his natural grace and composure, his good looks and boyish charm evoke the memories of myths of Greek heroes. As narrator, Gene says some of these characteristics of Finny’s “annoyed” him, but through the action of the story and the way Gene behaves toward his friend, we get a different picture of a darker undercurrent of jealousy.

I won’t give away any more of the plot details except to say that the old oak tree plays a pivotal role in the story. The themes of jealousy, hate, and war are prominent throughout, but also their opposites and the conflict between these co-existing states. In the end, the story leaves you with a lot to ponder and many things to figure out on your own, which is what helps make it a book definitely worth reading. ( )
  zenslave | Jan 23, 2015 |
I am sorry, but I did not appreciate this book. It has been labeled by many writers and critics as a "coming of age" novel, but I did not find the characters and their situations relatable at all. The fact that the main character admitted to purposely pushing his friend out of a tree was ridiculous. Even more ridiculous was the fact that Finny died after having leg surgery and an infection because his "heart gave up". When is the last time a strong and athletic teen had his or her heart stop because it was "upset". Also, the fact that gene Forrester felt jealous of Finny was silly because he was a better student and was also athletic. I thought the book just made Gene look like a jealous psychopath. I'm sure many people will have to read it anyway, but I did not feel the "deepness" that it is acclaimed for.
  TimSher | Jan 22, 2015 |
This is a classic and the story of boys at a prep school. Gene and Finny are roommates and good friends. Finny is athletic, charming and easy-going. Gene is more academic, and seems envious of Finny. There is an incident involving a fall from a tree that changes everything.

I had a hard time with this book. It is a relatively fast read at just over 200 pages. I think you can't help but envision Dead Poet's Society (one of my favorite movies) as you read it. The writing is good and the characters well developed. However I just found it boring. I kept waiting to be drawn in, and that never happened. In fact, I went to my book club discussion for this book, and couldn't even remember any details about what had happened. It is one of those books that within a day or two of completing it, I had completely forgotten it.

So if you like the classics, like books about the human psyche and the relationships between young boys discovering themselves, give this quick read a try. For me? I just never got it. ( )
  nfmgirl2 | Jan 13, 2015 |
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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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