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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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8,970129334 (3.59)176
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Showing 1-5 of 128 (next | show all)
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.

BEWARE: SPOILERS

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 |
Slow and draggy account of two prep school boys growing up during the war years of the 40's.
This book was a bestseller and won many awards, but was not to my liking. ( )
  pgabj | Jul 25, 2016 |
Couldn't relate to any of the characters . . . ( )
  mtlkch | Jun 21, 2016 |
3.5

“There was no harm in taking aim, even if the target was a dream.”

Gene, you suck. It didn’t take long at all for me to despise you.

I had no idea what to expect going into ‘A Separate Peace’. I’d never heard of it before an enthusiastic friends-of-the-library volunteer recommended it to me when I was shopping at the yearly book sale. Since then I’ve learned it’s actually a classic that’s slipped under my reader’s radar. The length isn’t intimidating and the book reads quickly, accompanied by a slightly distant yet talented writing style that could just as easily been used pen a book of poetry with its technique.

The first chapter/story was difficult to get into - story didn't start off with much of a bang, more of a literary whimper. The author’s style didn't suit me much but now it's grown on me as the story has grown. This coming-of-age tale is set during WWII at a sheltered boy’s school. There the boys face themselves, each other, and their future. Before even entering the war, they are corrupted by it - psychologically, physically, spiritually.

It paints a glorified picture of WWII, where, if you can’t serve, it’s considered a disasterous, dishonorable, lifelong failure. The school is set in an isolated way, filled with talk of joining the war and enlisting when they come of age, and until then sheltered from parents and outside peers, joining in the world’s efforts from news bulletins, the radio, and encouraging professors. This classic takes the world war and instead focuses on the true war – that within ourselves, a silent war no others see but that an individual must face.

Gene is a king in the school, a brain who’s best friends with the brawn, the top athlete who excels so naturally at things he doesn’t always want credit for them. They have a unique friendship that Gene starts questioning, as the inevitable testosterone-filled challenging nature of males intertwines with the bonding of friends.

There is a disaster – a sad one - that happens. I could even forgive this, maybe, if Gene didn’t later turn from the tales of another tortured friend. I found little sympathy in the character, but there was thankfully ample growth. At the end, it’s so haunting, so consuming, that it’s poetic justice.

Overall this story didn’t get into my psyche immediately, but once it did, the painful rollercoaster kept speeding up. Slow writing didn’t make a difference since I couldn’t turn away from the crash I knew was coming. Such a bleak and brutal novel, I can see why it’s termed a classic. Little is uplifting; of course it’s never a rule a book must be, but the bleakness is painful to read, which is suitable for a novel set during the false glories of wars.
( )
  ErinPaperbackstash | Jun 14, 2016 |
This book had a mention in another novel I recently read so I decided I needed to reread and see if I got the same thoughts as the author quoted.

Envy, jealousy and life altering choices. ( )
  yvonne.sevignykaiser | Apr 2, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 128 (next | show all)
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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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Wikipedia in English (1)

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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