A Separate Peace

A Separate Peace

Book - 2003
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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.
Publisher: New York : Scribner, 2003, ©1987
Edition: First Scribner trade paperback edition
ISBN: 9780743253970
0743253973
Branch Call Number: FICTION Kno
Description: 204 pages ; 22 cm

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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.

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 ... Read More »


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Groszerita May 26, 2019

I read this novel in high school and I remember devouring it. I found it achingly beautiful.

a
AaronAardvark1940
Mar 21, 2019

Only because this book was recently reviewed did I get lucky enough to borrow and read it. Having been a less-than-perfect adolescent boy at one time, this book hit me hard. How can one not feel with Gene? How can one imagine a boy as pure as Finny? This is one Tulsa reviewer who parts company with the last two Tulsa comments.

Overrated. And the movie stinks on ice, the acting is pathetic, and the story is a bummer.

h
halftastic
Jan 09, 2019

I guess a broken leg qualifies as a life altering tragedy to trust-fund kids.

j
Jane_Sm
Jan 05, 2019

There should be a separate circle of hell for teachers who spoil literature for students!
Fortunately I only encountered this book later in life and so was free to enjoy the story on my own terms. My response is WOW! Adolescence seems to be better understood and appreciated from a distance.

HCL_featured Sep 19, 2018

"Challenged at the McDowell County, NC schools (1996) because of "graphic language." from www.ala.org American Library Association

Sug_Smith Jun 04, 2018

A Separate Peace is a novel that ensnares the readers heart for the characters and spends the rest of the novel killing you softly because of that attachment. Placing beloved characters in the perilous historical context of WW2 has the reader clinging to the edge of their seats and broadening their horizons of what it was to be on the brink of draft eligibility.

p
pamina1
May 30, 2018

Once in a blue moon, a novel comes along that leaves you feeling that the author began with something like this impulse: Here is the experience that has most shaken and shaped me, and I am going to make a book of it. Such an undertaking requires considerable caution, as well as, probably, a necessary measure of throwing caution to the winds. In his 1959 A Separate Peace, the late John Knowles took on the challenge and proved himself fully equal to it. I don’t know how I managed to miss it until now, but I’m grateful finally to have aded this classic American coming-of-age novel to my experience.

It’s impossible to quote adequately from such a rich total fabric, but here’s a taste, one of the descriptions of Devon, the fictional New England prep school that is the setting for the novel:’

“The school had been largely rebuilt with a massive bequest from an oil family some years before in a peculiar style of Puritan grandeur, as though Versailles had been modified for the needs of a Sunday school. This opulent sobriety betrayed the divided nature of the school, just as in a different way the two rivers that it straddled did. From the outside the buildings were reticent, severe straight lines of red brick or white clapboard, with shutters standing sentinel beside each window, and a few unassuming white cupolas placed here and there on the roofs because they were expected and not pretty, like Pilgrim bonnets.

“But one you passed through the Colonial doorways, with only an occasional fan window or low relief pillar to suggest that a certain muted adornment was permissible, you entered an extravaganza of Pompadour splendor …”

My only previous experience with Knowles was his sturdy introduction to G. B. Edwards’ posthumously published masterpiece The Book of Ebenezer LePage (pronounced Le as in French and Page as in a book, as the irresistibly quirky narrator early on informs us), one of the select few novels of the 20th Century I most enthusiastically recommend.

So take this as a recommendation of two novels, one widely read and celebrated and the other unjustly neglected.

t
TwiceSaved
Feb 03, 2017

Wow what an incredible coming of age story! Phineas, an incredibly vibrant character in the book, was a great inspiration in my life. From the story Knowles paints, he has a vibrant, effervescent spirit to him which automatically draws the reader to him. However, I do not think his death, was a malicious act by Gene.

I really do feel for Gene throughout this story. Phineas was always pushing him, egging him on and it seemed Gene was bothered by that.

Believe me, I know what it means to have friends like that. People who dare you into semi-dangerous situations just to satisfy their own desires. And I still don't know if Phineas was like that, or whether he genuinely cared for Gene and just wanted him to break out of his shell.

But in the end, Gene finally turned the situation back on Phineas. He made Phineas adapt to his musings, and in the end, eventually killed him. That last conversation between Phineas and Gene is one of the more poignant conversations in literature I believe.

Was Gene trying to apologize, was Phineas telling him he was already forgiven? Did the two realize their ultimate mistake and come to terms with themselves. John Knowles never draws any conclusions.

Was Gene a murderer returning to the scene of a crime? Or was he just a grown man trying to make sense of one the most perplexing relationships he has had with one the more perplexing people he has ever known?

Again, I have been in Gene's situation. Being dared or belittled into doing something I did not want to. And there are times I wish I had the guts to do what Gene did, and turn the tables on my antagonistic frenemy. I did not, Gene did. Who is right?

Some people view what Gene did as murder, or at least manslaughter. I view Gene's actions as justified. Just doing to him what he did, and was trying to do to me.

j
JESSICA PILON
Jan 12, 2016

This book was awful. It was confusing, at times disturbing, and weird. I absolutely hated it. I am 14 and I wouldn't recommend this for anyone. The only reason I was able to finish was because I had to do it for school.

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