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A Separate Peace (1959)

by John Knowles

Series: Devon

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
11,649180458 (3.58)239
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)
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English (179)  French (1)  All languages (180)
Showing 1-5 of 179 (next | show all)
between 1.5 and 2 stars. this definitely got better as it went along, as gene starts to understand himself better and reflect on that, and his friendship, more. phineas (finny) was certainly the most interesting character in the book, but i understand why we can't get narration from him.

as a coming of age tale, it has some surprises in it that i appreciated, but it's not one of the better ones i've read. i expected more about the war, and some of that came near the end, but not as much as i'd have liked. still, it's an easy, quick read and there is some value in it.

there is no purpose to the framing of the story, in the first few pages, of gene looking back on his time at the school. we don't revisit this at the end; there is no reason not to start the narration with the story itself. it always bothers me when this structure is used for no reason. ( )
  overlycriticalelisa | May 9, 2022 |
A coming-of-age story involving two boys at a prep school where one is in awe of the other. I certainly get that dynamic, and often have felt like the “in awe” person. Maybe I’ve just seen this story too many times for it to move or resonate with me. Not really recommended ( )
  100sheets | Feb 21, 2022 |
Poetry, through a boys' school, about a war. Contains many surprising truths about human nature. ( )
  et.carole | Jan 21, 2022 |
The coming of age story set during 1941-1942. The war is in the background, but not a front and center part of the story. It is the story of two friends and their struggles in a New England boarding school. While slow moving, it is yet profound and poignant. 228 pages ( )
  Tess_W | Nov 3, 2021 |
Originally published in 1959, A Separate Peace by John Knowles is a coming-of-age story set in a New England private boy’s school during World War II. The story is about friendship, competition and the inner doubts and fears of adolescent boys. There is a school of thought that pushes a homo-erotic dynamic as implied by the interactions between the two main characters, Gene and Phineas. This is subtle and open to an individuals’ interpretation of the relationship.

While Gene is an introvert and intellectual, Finny is an extroverted athlete who definitely has more control over their relationship. Whatever Finny wants to do, Gene, often reluctant, always follows along. As roommates, these opposites are always together. When Finny devises a daredevil club whose membership must jump from the limb of a tree into the river, Gene, although terrified, follows along. Gene admires Phineas but also is jealous of his ease with others and his ability to impress through actions. This jealousy flares up at various times, and eventually Gene acts upon impulse and this act of betrayal changes both boys forever.

A Separate Peace is beautifully written. It moves slowly but gives the reader vivid imagery and strong character development. World War II plays a vital part but always remains in the background, shaping the boy’s world, but not controlling it. The book varies itself, sometimes sad, sometimes humorous, always moving, and for me, it felt authentic to both the time and the place. ( )
5 vote DeltaQueen50 | Sep 9, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 179 (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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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.

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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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Average: (3.58)
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1 120
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