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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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One of the books that almost everyone in my high school read. A real tear jerker. A bit overly melodramatic at times. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
Set in the beginning of WWII, this story centers on the relationship of two boys, Finny and Gene. The POV is exclusively Gene's, which makes for an unreliable narration simply because it is one-sided.

There are many themes in this book: relationships, war, boarding school, competitions, military draft, and it goes on and on. However, this book for me was based on one thing: a senior year in the life of a student (Gene) and his relationships and experiences. Gene was a very complex character. Finny was his roommate and best buddy, but there was also a sense of competition bordering on manic between them. Finny was gregarious and overwhelming to Gene, and Gene struggled to maintain his identity in the shadow that was his roommate.

At the climax of the book, it is almost an afterthought that Gene jostled the branch on which he and Finny were standing. No emphasis is put on the decision that caused Gene to do this, indicating that it was not predetermined or premeditated. It simply happened. I don't think for a minute that Gene intended Finny to fall from the branch; it was just a horrible accident.

My surprise, however, was in the character of Brinker. He seemed maniacal, conniving and determined to bring Finny and Gene to their knees. The author makes it clear that Brinker was like Finny in many ways, and in his senior year took the lead role of the school easily because of Finny's accident. Once Finny is back at school, however, Brinker has to play second fiddle, and I think that is what fuels his fire to the culminating "trial" at the end of the book.

I saw Finny's accident the first time as that, an accident. It was clear that, even though Gene felt competition toward his friend, he loved him. Brinker, on the other hand, planned from the beginning to draw blood in the trial setting. He planned an expose, to shame someone. The fact that Finny had to flee to get rid of what he considered a painful situation places his second accident squarely on the shoulders of Brinker. I was frustrated that he was never called on his actions in the incident.

In the end, it was a brilliant character study. Relationships set against the backdrop of a boarding school with rich history, against the backdrop of brilliantly described seasons, against the backdrop of the impending and increasing American activity in the war that would change history...This is a classic worth reading and will make you think long after the last page. ( )
  CarmenMilligan | Jan 18, 2016 |
Set in a boys boarding school, A Separate Peace is a story of growing up set at the beginning of World War II. Now an adult, Gene Forrester, returns to Devon Academy to see two things: a tree near the Devon River and a flight of marble stairs in the First Academy Building. Obviously these two places will have a serious role on how the story is played out.

As Gene reflects on their friendship, he wonders if they are close friends, enemies, or rivals, or perhaps even a mixture of all of these. Gene does well at school, excelling at his studies, while Phineas is a sporting super star, breaking records and winning awards. Phineas seems capable of charming everyone around him, including his teachers. He is charming and daring, and always the center of attention. This is the start of Gene's jealousy and resentment of Phineas. Then one day, with one random act of violence, Gene knocks Phineas out of a tree. He breaks his leg, and their friendship is changed completely.

A Separate Peace has been hailed as an American classic, and it's easy to see why. It's a story of its time, including how America took part in World War II and a look at how young men responded. The boys talk about the desire to enlist, of the greatness that might come with war, while the reality of the situation presents itself through a friend who leaves school to go to war. The war crucially changes how Gene and Phineas feel about the world, and their own place in it.
( )
  Olivermagnus | Jan 17, 2016 |
Book on CD performed by Scott Snively

The boys who attend Devon School have always lived in an insular world. Gene and Phineas are roommates and best friends, sharing their dreams of Olympic glory, inventing games and participating in secret societies. But it is the summer of 1942 and their peaceful environment is threatened by World War II. What begins as innocent fun will have long-lasting repercussions. Rivalries and jealousy lead to suspicion, betrayal and violence.

I’d never heard of this book until a few years ago, but it was first published in 1960, and I’m sure many of my peers in high school and college must have been reading it. I like the way Knowles develops the boys and their relationships. The competition for recognition and the ability to hurt one another with a “casual” remark seem very realistic for this age group (16-18 years old).

Snively does a good job on the audio book, maintaining a good pace and sufficiently differentiating the various characters.
( )
  BookConcierge | Jan 13, 2016 |
3.5 stars. One of those I had to read for school which I actually enjoyed. ( )
  ScribblingSprite | Aug 10, 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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