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

by John Knowles

Series: Devon

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
10,671165436 (3.59)223
Presents a novel about a friendship that develops between two boys during a summer vacation at the Devon school during World War II.
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English (164)  French (1)  All languages (165)
Showing 1-5 of 164 (next | show all)
I think this is a good book to read in class. Not in high school. Like Catcher in the Rye, I’m certain I would have hated this in high school, and I can’t fathom why any teacher would try to force it on students today. But I also recognize that it makes for very good academic reading. This is the kind of novel and characters that are just begging to be analyzed in a classroom.

For the first few chapters, I was very much against this book. First, it takes place at a New England boys boarding school, and who the hell can ever root for a character that attends a New England boarding school? Second, the main character, Phineas, is too damn perfect. He’s the best at everything. Physically fit, incredible at all sports, but humble, kind towards everyone, friends instantly with everybody, thinks the best of everyone and everything all the time, spontaneous and fun, always has a witty comment ready. I don’t fall for all this idealized childhood innocence and idealized sport and idealized summers. It feels fake, and it’s dull to read. I don’t read books to see perfect, but impossible, versions of the world.

It gets much better as it progresses, when betrayals and wartime anxieties start to grind the sunny vision of the early chapters down. I’ll admit, Phineas won me over by the end, when his idyllic perception of the world began to crack, and he started to feel real. At times, when really digging into the characters’ insecurities and failings, the story becomes intensely interesting. Though it still spends a lot of time wallowing around in nowhere. Even for a short book, not much happens.

This is a good novel, maybe even a great novel. But it’s a terrible book for a high school class, and it’s sloggingly slow for most of it. ( )
  gloveswithpockets | May 28, 2020 |
This book was mentioned on Episode 2 of Checking Out. Listen here! ( )
  rachelreading | Apr 20, 2020 |
Ex libris Rebecca Schaffner ( )
  ME_Dictionary | Mar 19, 2020 |
The book I didn't read in high school but should have. ( )
  evil_cyclist | Mar 16, 2020 |
read in Ken Peeder's class at Hillcrest ( )
  Overgaard | Feb 7, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 164 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
Dedication
To Bea and Jim with gratitude and love
First words
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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