|A Separate Peace
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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.
- A beautiful, unflinching study of humans
I'm in my 40's and I've only now read this book. My wife and I were in a book store and, surprised that I had not read it, she pulled it from the shelf and bought it for me. I'm glad I read it now because I think a lot of it would have been lost on me had I read it as an assigned book in high school.
This book is about humans and their nature. The nature that can transform small bits of angst and doubt into tragedy on a grand scale. The two main characters are prep school roommates and best friends. However, Gene still fills gaps in their relationship with suspicion and insecurity, leading to an irreversible horror that he spends the remainder of the book coming to grips with. I think every human grapples with this same weakness. For most of us, luckily, we learn these lessons in small ways from our own lives and we safely learn them from novels like this where the effects are grave and permanent.
I'll bet there is someone in your life that you do not understand. And rather than confronting that gap in an open and honest way, you are instead nurturing a suspicion of ill will on their part. Don't be like Gene. Don't shake that person from the tree. Talk to them. Be honest and open. You might not get to an ideal place but you will avoid the dark breakdown of the sorts found in this novel.
You are a human and, therefore, this novel, this unflinching study of human nature, should be part of your curriculum.
- It could be better
A Separate Peace was written initially as a means of describing the loss of innocence in youth and the way that loss shapes them when they grow older. It did a satisfactory job in doing so. Yet, I feel as though the book didn't completely grasp me and I didn't feel anything beyond simple sympathy towards any of the characters.
The plot essentially went like this (without the ending). Teenagers Gene and Finny go to a prep school in Devon during WWII. The war serves as the representation for the loss of innocence ready to take fold. While Gene is the quiet overachiever, he viciously envies his best friend Finny as Finny is more popular, social, and athletic. The envy explodes one day when Gene accidentally-on-purpose shook the branch that Finny was swinging on, causing him to fall out of the tree. Finny is paralyzed, as a result of this, and the rest of the novel serves to examine Gene's reaction to this and how his newfound guilty shapes his future.
I enjoyed how Knowles used the ongoing war as a representation of the violence and despair that would rip these friends apart. It added an extra depth to the novel, since the events of the story relating to the war coincided with the experiences of friendship, or damaged friendship, between the two boys. Ok, I felt sympathetic for Finny because he was suffering due to the detrimental jealousy of his closest friend. I'm not an apathetic person. But I didn't like this book mainly because, it was extremely boring. The plot dragged on, and for me, it just got to the point where I gave up caring for any of the people.
If you have to read this book, I'm guessing it won't be bad comparing to the other books they make you read in school. But if you want to read a book that brilliantly analyzes the loss of innocence within humanity, read The Lord of the Flies.
John Knowles is a skilled story teller and a master at writing. His deep and rich descriptions give your mind the ability to paint your imagination with images that are much more than just images. These images are alive. His words not only bring life but they add another dimension to the picture. Emotion.
What sounds to be a simple tale transcends beyond any expectation and puts your soul, your very being into the picture. Your emotions are played like a delicate instrument. You feel for the characters and your sympathy runs deeper than as if you were a friend or relative. Their emotions are your emotions.
Main character Gene and Phineas quickly become friends at a prep school. As World War II approaches, the boys at the school are torn by emotions. Each boy struggles to find himself.
This book is definitely a classic. I only wish it were better known because it is far better than some of the other classics out there.
The tale of true friendship, true hatred, and the jealousy in between. Beautifully written with two very real characters that you really know by the end.
I, like most others, read this book for a freshman high school english class. However, unlike most of the students, not only did I actually read it, I loved it. I thought it was one of the most true books I had ever come across. It seemed to be a rare thing for me because of my taste in "literature" (I was a huge reader of R.L. Stine in my early teens ... I know, I know ... awful), but this book really opened my eyes. It made me appreciate true, honest, non-fear street teeny-bopper books. This book changed the way I read and definitely changed my appreciation for simple and beautiful stories. I think this book could definitely be the reason I became a literature major.
A must read ... especially for young adults ... an astounding truth....more info
- Surprisingly enjoyable! a good quick read.
"A Separate Peace" by John Knowles.
In the summer of 1942 Gene Forrester attends the summer session of Devon a private school in New England. Gene's friend Phineas (Finny) decides it would be a good idea to jump from a tree overhanging a river on campus. A tree used to simulate jumping from a war ship by the seniors. Finny talks Gene into jumping as well. Gene as always goes along with Finny's idea........
This book was surprisingly enjoyable. The story is told from Gene's point of view as he goes through his last year of school while contemplating life, his friendship with Finny and others as well as the war which overhangs everything and everyone. The book isn't full of action and adventure per say but Knowles writing style is very engrossing and will keep you turning pages.
The good: The easiest way to sum it up is to say the writing. The style made for a completely enjoyable read. The characters all have a real feel to them. The ongoing description of the school was done well enough that it might be considered one of the characters as well.
The bad: Nothing memorable
Overall: A great read. Pick it up and give it a try.
- 25 Years of Guilt Washed Away by reading this book!
I was supposed to read this book in high school and, like so many students, I neglected my duties and never read it. Somehow I passed the test, etc., but I've always felt bad that I didn't read it. Well, fast forward 25+ years and, guess what, I bought a copy. It's a very thought-provoking, melancholy book that depicts a young man who hangs out with the guy he idolizes/envies and the consequences of his mixed emotions about the friendship. Seems there could be homoerotic overtones to the book, though that's never delved into in any direct way. It's an excellently written, discussable book that I'm glad I finally got around to exploring....more info
- A Seperate Piece
This book had little markings on it, but I was expecting that. Otherwise, the book was in great shape. No pages ripped, no missing pages, etc. Although the book is boring but interesting to me......more info
- A simple but striking story; it should make you uncomfortable
The story of Gene an' Finny is peppered with so much irreversible psychological harm being committed that it is impossible to not feel uncomfortable as the story unfolds. One boy is a lively free spirit while the other is being driven down a path to adulthood without stopping to appreciate the joy of the last years of real peace. World War II is looming an' the story is all the more troubling because of this disenchantment with mankind's determination to destroy each other so present in these boys, while knowing that "the war to end all wars" was really anything but; that the cycle of violence as akin to superiority, to racism, to sectarianism, all aspects of the idea of one nationalism over another, was only going to escalate an' grow more deadly; an' that the lines between who was right an' wrong, good or bad, in these wars would begin blurring rapidly. If it was ever there in the first place.
What happens between the two boys in this story could constantly be reinterpreted, whether it was premeditated an' malicious, or an unintentional act that simply weighed too heavily on the conscience to accept as an accident. An' the eternal question I constantly posed to myself being whether where the story ends up places the fault on a young boy regardless of the aforementioned uncertainty of the act's intent.
I could read this again and be enveloped by this feeling as though it were fresh. Maybe because in the time since I've read it I've never resolved the moral question here. And probably never will. Cheers to the late Mr. Knowles for tackling something pure an' human in a universal way. One of the seminal reading experiences of my life. ...more info
- family favorite
This novel has become a new favorite in our family, we have all read it....more info
- Why does this book even exist?
I am a junior in highschool and I was forced to read this book for my English class. I must say that it was torture and I had to force myself to even finish the thing. I have read hundreds of books in my life and this was by far the worst. The characters didn't even seem like they were human and it felt like they were devoid of emotion. Gene seemed kinda psychotic and unfeeling throughout the entire book and I am still trying to find the point of the whole thing. I think the pacing was bad and nothing interesting happens throughout the entire book. Also the characters do not feel realistic and the whole thing just felt wrong. Totally unrealistic the whole way through. ...more info
- Decent Classic
This was a good, thought-provoking novel. Some of the emotions and mental processes of the characters were hard for me to identify with, but I think that adds to the experience in a way. This isn't the greatest book I've ever read, but it definitely presents some fascinating thought-processes, which I admired....more info
- A Class Unto Itself
Aubrey Menen wrote that "A Separate Peace" was the "best-written, best-designed, and most moving novel" he had read in years - which begs the question...who is Aubrey Menen? ("Was" is more appropriate, as the satirist died in India in 1989, after a career as an ad exec and novelist.) His observations were on target, though, and some of Menen's best writing is observed in his cover-blurbs for John Knowles' 1959 coming of age story.
As a title that appears on a number of high school required-reading lists, it might be easy to dismiss "A Separate Peace" as another tedious assignment bent on beating the life out of students. The presence of sixteen-year-olds in the story likely reduced it to an assignment to begin with, but the quality of the writing is what keeps it there.
Although generations removed from the time when general conscription filled the ranks of the armed forces, "A Separate Peace" is able to recapture the uneasiness of that era, and the distinction between those old enough for the WWII draft, and those who have another year of relative innocence. Gene and Phineas are in that latter class, attending an underpopulated summer session at an exclusive New England boy's school. Gene is an intellectual who tends to read between the lines, while Phineas is athletic smooth-talker who has the ability to get away with anything.
The two wind up as roommates and unlikely best friends, although Gene can scarcely contain his jealousy of Finny's winning ways. He alternately views his friend as naive and crafty, and in an instant of competitive retribution, Gene bounces on the tree limb on which they are balanced, causing Finny to fall and shatter his leg.
The emotions Knowles touches on in dealing with Gene's resulting guilt, and the shame of knowing he has permanently changed the life of his friend, are eloquently stated, and certainly identifiable as part of the angst-ridden years of growing toward adulthood. Without giving away details of the story, later complications compound the situation, and Gene - already burdened with intellectual introspection - forces himself to reason or rationalize the ordeal.
Part of the joy of the book is Phineas himself, the sort of character some are fortunate to meet in real life, among those treasured acquaintances who seem to streak like wondrous meteors across the skies of our lives, before disappearing forever from our sight, and - assigned or not - "A Separate Peace" soars as one of life's extra-credit literary pleasures....more info
- Perfect Example of the Setting Enhancing the Theme
Sad but triumphant- A Separate Peace is a story of struggle, deceit, guilt, forgiveness but most of all self- discovery. Gene is a successful student but he envies his best friend Finny for his popularity and his excellent athletic abilities. Finny broke the school record in swimming from his first trial without feeling the need to be recognized for it. Gene's jealousy and resentful hatred led to the climax of the story- Gene causing Finny to fall from a tree branch, forever handicapping his abilities to pursue his dreams. This was the first step for Gene to discover his identity.
A major theme is also codependence. Finny fulfills his dream of joining the Olympics of 1944 through Gene whom he trains vigorously as he would have done himself. Gene on the other hand, looses Finny forever but is glad that he had lost his old identity to now become a part of Finny. At the end, Finny's funeral becomes Gene's own.
Even though Gene adopts a new identity, he still considers it inferior to Finny's personality that he thinks is the only immune to the enmity existing in the human heart.
The setting of the novel enhances the story in that it takes place during WWII. Instead of focusing on the physical aspects of war, Knowles focuses on the war and enmity occurring in the human hearts.
Gene destroys his envious nature when he injures Finny-his enemy- but also when he is forgiven for doing so. Finny is the only innocent boy who refuses to think that anyone could be his enemy. He chooses to believe that his injury was an accident. However, his benevolence cannot endure the gloomy clouds of war surrounding him... his death is inevitable. As the boys grow into adulthood and enlist in the military, Finny's innocence is strangled by the plague of war and enmity.
- Oh My Gosh
I can't believe I have to give it any stars!! I hated this book! It's definately one of the worst (if not THE worst) book I've ever read. It was so boring!! I had to read it for class and I didn't because it was so horrible...If you ever have to read it for a class, trust me and FIND CLIFF NOTES!!!...more info
- Simply Good
I, like many other fellow freshman, read this book for my English class. And you know what? I was surprised. I loved it.
Most of you are now thinking "Why? Has this girl lost her marbles?". I am happy to tell you I am completely sane. Now why am I raving about this book? John Knowles, the author, has a way with presenting the full depth of the story. Now if you are not a deep person and prefer books to be blunt and literal, get the heck out of here. This is a book for people that completely digest what they are reading. NOT for those who would rather read a book, say that it was entertaining, then move on. No I would recommend a action book, magazine, or short story for that person.
Now for those, who like me love to weigh and consider what they read, continue reading this review.
One of the best things about this book was it's simple plot line. Easy. It was designed that way so that the author could pack in the character's feelings and his opinions without bogging down the reader with more irrelevant details. In this way, he keeps the reader's attention. Otherwise the story would drag on and on, until the poor person reading would throw down the book in frustration. This person would then begin to rave about the author's inconsideration for the student who has to read this. Then this student would fail their final test. See what I mean? A simple plot line is preferable.
But don't get me wrong, the author doesn't forget the reader's love for picturing what is happening. He describes things differently though. He prefered sensory details instead of flat adjectives such as "red". It's this mastery for his art that makes readers drawn to Knowles style. IN FACT, I found him saying something simmilar to this in our English class research. He always begins with a "sense of place and goes from there." He also mentions "I never write with an audience in mind. But I am glad I found one".
I personally like his style, but it's like cheese. Some people will just NOT like it! But it's a personal thing. And to those forced to read it, just be glad you aren't reading the Counte of Monte Cristo. I heard from my friend who didn't like A Seperate Peace, that she disliked the Counte of Monte Cristo more. I highly recommend this book any way.
I read this book 30 years ago and it still remains one of the best ones I have ever read....more info
- Times Eternal
// Spoiler Below //
Notes: Finneas doesn't have to try to be good at things; his friend Gene needs to work hard. Gene resents this fact and begins to hate his friend's seeming perfection and unconquerable innocence. Soon his resentment blooms into an almost irrational hostility. He becomes almost paranoid, he thinks Finny is trying to keep him from his studies, the one thing at which he excels. Meanwhile, Finneas lives a free life, breaks school sports records without making official records, lives a life above the rules. Finny has an innocence partially divine. But all childhoods must end, and Finneas' perfection must fall.
Gene describes Finneas as part of himself, as an extension of his own person, and when Finneas dies a part of Gene also dies; he is transformed. Finneas represents a pure side of Gene and that is usurped at school's end by the encroaching real world as war looms. And he must be shed as all the boys begin to each adopt a new, grownup face. A face of fear -- a face to confront the enemy of Europe and Asia, and the grown up world.
At the beginning of the novel, Gene visits Devon and sees things as an adult; yet he has not forgotten what it was like to see them as a boy. He is a sleuth, a visitor looking in at the gates of his childhood. He observes the fabled tree, the things once magical but now soberingly real. He notices the fateful marble stairs outside the First Academy Building: how hard they are, he now realizes, edging closer to that long lived with truth.
All the boys are, as the narrator says, "imprinted with the spirit of the times" in which they met life at that time of special terms. When life was to be invented, questioned, when everything was possible. Those times, the narrator reflects, will always be a part of us. They are what is the truth, what we always return to. A seperate peace....more info
- "To be read over and over"
If picking up a war novel set in the 1940s, usually I'll anticipate a story that involves straightforward characters and revolves around a patriotic, straightforward America. That said, I was pleasantly surprised with John Knowles's A Separate Peace. Set in a New England prep school and juxtaposed against the impending World War II, Knowles's explores the complex and complicated emotions that plague many young people.
Gene is a contemplative, introverted young student who envies his best friend and roommate, Phineas', charisma and playfulness. While their friendship progresses, Gene's secret jealousy slowly builds, until one fateful event threatens to destroy both their friendship and each boys' innocence.
Written from a refreshing new perspective, A Separate Peace causes the reader to pause and contemplate a boy's rite of passage from blissful innocence to the stark, and sometimes painful, elements of reality. The book is truly beautiful and it's message is best taught outside the confines of a classroom. Unfortunately, too often it seems this book is thrust upon reluctant readers (I'm recall my personal experience as a high school student). Instead, to get the whole effect, the reader should have the opportunity to really participate, and immerse themselves in the characters and story. All in all, it's an excellent read. I'd recommend A Separate Peace to readers of all ages who will welcome and appreciate this touching and thought-provoking narative. In my opinion, it's one story you'll be reading over and over.
- Good but I didn't like it.
I of course recognize that this book is well written and a classic but I personally found it too depressing and uneventful....more info
- This Is a Classic. Every Kid Should Read This Book
I remember reading this in high school and I loved it. The story and characters are unforgettable. It might seem like a typical coming of age story at first, but the way this book blends themes like jealousy and friendship with pure tragedy is incredible. 5 stars all the way....more info
- Why This Book is Ughy - and Maybe Dangerous in a Way
A Separate Peace is ughy. Before I get into that, I want to give you an idea of what kind of person I am (gotta establish some "cred" here! ;-). I love everything that has "true grit" -- from "Alphabet of Manliness" (extremely funny) to the great, amazing and utterly fantastic political philosopher, Leo Strauss (check out his great essays "Jerusalem and Athens" "Progress or Return" "An Interpretation of Genesis" if you want to experience what thinking IS!!!!)
I grew up reading everything by Hemingway (esp. loved the Nick Adams stories); then by Flannery O'Connor (fabulous in the extreme!) and on and on -- I love Dostoyevsky...I spent 10 years adoring Solzhenitsyn (check out "The First Circle" "Cancer Ward" etc. etc. I read "The Gulag" in its entirety, etc. etc. etc.) and reading dissident literature that made it out of the USSR on microfilm, to be published in the West...
When I was 35 I read Allan Bloom's fine translation of Plato's Republic and The Laws -- WOW!!! Everyone should read those two amazing amazing books....and Bloom's "The Closing of the American Mind" from 1987 is fantastic, as is his amazing "Politics and the Arts: On the Rousseau's Letter to D'Alembert on the Theatre"...
BUT ! ! ! I recently told a friend I didn't like A Separate Peace; I didn't like the idea of this 'friend' hurting his friend out of jealousy. Like this was supposed to be profound. Like this would/could happen.
She wrote me back, "That's just what is so compelling about it - that envy we have in tight control, it just needs a second to squeak past our discipline - and in the book, with such devestating results. Anyone of us might do that - just that one second of relaxing our guard, the right opportunity, the second where you don't take in the consequences..."
No, I quite disagree.
My friend went on further to say, "It's like The Rhyme (Rime?) of the Ancient Mariner - like the albatross, this friend is so beautiful - so the mariner shoots it - like out of a weird envy of its goodness - just destroys it. I think it's a very basic and universal impulse. I love in the Gospel of John where it says something like: 'And as for Jesus, He trusted Himself to none of them. He knew too well the hearts of men.'"
I totally disagree (I mean, I agree with Jesus, but he came to have his teachings penetrate and change people -- he was betrayed, like Phineas was in A Separate Peace!).
I agree with these parts of a couple of reviews of A Separate Peace, which I found here on Amazon:
"In the book, when Gene got Finny to fall from the tree, that is just something a friend wouldn't do. No matter how mad you are at your friend you wouldn't push your friend out of a tree so that you can be better than him. Friends aren't like that."
and from another review:
"High school boys don't think like that, they're not murderous crazy people they're boys."
THEY GOT IT! THEY PUT THEIR FINGER ON EXACTLY WHAT BOTHERED ME DEEPLY ABOUT THIS BOOK WHEN I READ IT YEARS AGO.
First, let's get this straight: Like all fiction, the plot in A Separate Peace is MADE UP. Reading fiction involves the famous "willing suspension of disbelief" which is a fabulous gift from above; it enables us to read fiction and by it, to learn and have our souls changed. But once we've read a book, it's REALLY OK to look at it and criticize it from many angles. (Just lay off my perfect Solzhenitsyn, O'Connor, etc., OK? ;-)
What kind of political and religious viewpoint would an author of a book like A Separate Peace HAVE? I think one can see that said viewpoint is quite confused.
I consider A Separate Peace to be an example, an iteration, of shock literature.
WHY ARE HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS SUBJECTED TO "SHOCK LITERATURE"??? THEY STILL ARE BEING SUBJECTED TO IT AS WE SPEAK. You know why? Plato talks about the tendency in a democracy to have the old suck up to the young. The teacher being afraid of the student, and hence "flattering them." "SEE, WE'RE COOL, YOU'RE COOL - SEE THE STUFF WE LET YOU READ? IN FACT WE MAKE YOU READ? WE'RE REALISTIC, WE'RE NOT PRUDES! HARD TRUTHS, LET AT 'EM!"
I googled to find out about Knowles' political and religious viewpoint and didn't find what I wanted explicitly, but this will do (from someone called Ruel E. Foster) - Tho I disagree with Ruel's praise of A Separate Peace and think it too suffers from the flaws discussed below:
"Every novel but his first suffers from one fundamental defect--the characters are not plausible. There is not a single memorable woman character in his fiction and only two male characters--Gene Forrester and Phineas--that stay in our memory. The result is an imperfect empathy and a resultant lack of reader interest. In general his male protagonists are inert, deracinated, ambivalent, depersonalized, dehumanized. Why does Knowles create such types? Only he can answer this definitively, but perhaps he gives us the answer in his book Double Vision where he argues against roots and for rootlessness, the new form of nomadism. "We need to be nomadic and uprooted today," he maintains. As he says, he is not regional, does not come from a town or a city. He is one of the live-around-the-world people. So he is and so are the characters in his books. This is his fundamental failure and it is a major one. He may yet overcome this and give us again a convincing, brilliant novel as was A Separate Peace."
I deny that A Separate Peace is a convincing or brilliant novel.
It contains a terrible ughy idea to set before young people. There are so so so so many great things out there that kids could read. IMHO, keep them away from this.
- Finny's Finis
Though "A Separate Peace" was very much in vogue at secondary school during my own high school days, the Angel of Death passed over my classroom door, leaving me to read the book only as an adult.
Author John Knowles did manage to catch me unawares at boarding school one day anyway, when I stumbled across a short story of his called "A Turn In The Sun" that was about as profound and shaking a reading experience as I ever underwent. It was like that song, "Killing Me Softly," and I was Roberta Flack, or Lauryn Hill, or whoever. I was definitely the kid in the story, and Knowles' fine-bored narrative had me in its sights from first to last.
So I came to "Peace" with expectations, appreciation, and none of the homework-ridden angst much of its audience experiences on a first reading. And you know what? It was not impressive. Yes, Knowles' gripping descriptive powers were in evidence, and the setting, the same Devon boarding school as "Turn In The Sun", feels even more solid and dour here, establishing a great mood of preppy angst. But the end result doesn't deliver.
Published in 1959 but set during World War II, the novel features two boarding-school roommates, Gene and Phineas, a.k.a. Finny. Gene's the sensitive intellectual, and Finny the carefree jock. The two are best friends until one fatal day when one of them thoughtlessly jounces a tree limb the other is climbing on, sending him to a crippling fall. Unlike every other story of this kind, it's the jock that gets hurt, as Gene suffers from jealousy, or guilt, or frustrated homosexuality, or trembly legs, or, well, something.
I know what "Separate Peace" suffers from: A weak story. People complain that nothing much happens here, which was not the problem I had. I liked Knowles' wandering narrative eye just fine, as I said he's engagingly descriptive. It's when Knowles tries to create a semblance of a story that the thing falls apart. Finny won't believe his friend would hurt him, and so unconvincingly stifles any conversation on the subject until its too late. Meanwhile, a second plotline regarding the war's impact on Devon comes and goes to minimal effect, Knowles trying to tie it into the main story as if the whole of 20th century geopolitics consists of superpowers jouncing each other off tree limbs.
Add to that bad dialogue, unconvincing as that of teenage boys, like when the intellectually imposing and supercilious dormmate Brinker Hadley calls Gene out for injuring Finny in a basement smoking room. Gene tries to joke about the incident, because it will somehow make him less suspicious. "Yes, huh, yes there was a small, a little contretemps by the tree," Gene says, going on in this painful vein for a while, as Knowles channels the guilt within him with a full heart and a tin ear.
In the end, the story feels like a lot of symbolic puffery combined with some interesting bits about boarding school life that remain underdeveloped. I think I got the better of Knowles from reading "A Turn In The Sun", and maybe you will, too....more info
- Not the best of books...
To say the least. I really don't know why the people who come up with high school English curriculums insist on reading books like this. There are so many better books that still fall under the "classics" category. I mean seriously, what high school kid enjoys reading Great Gatsby? No one, because these books are just plain stupid. Uninteresting, pointless plots, these "coming of age" novels are so overrated in makes me furious. So if you're not a high school kid and thinking about reading this just for pleasure, think again. It would be more pleasureable to break your kneecaps with a sledge hammer.
So why did I give it 2 stars? Well, it was pretty funny when Finny fell out of the tree (although it was unintentional humor). And of course any time you have a character named "Leper" in a book, it's instant comedy. Especially when he goes insane.
But other than that the book sucks....more info
- Wonderful Book - I reread it every several years!
A Separate Peace and To Kill A Mockingbird are my two favorite books of all time. I reread both of them every several years because I like them so much. Each time I read them I tend to pick up new details I missed the first few times I read them.
I must confess that these were two of the few books I read during high school. I am embarrassed to admit that I relied on CliffNotes to get me through much of our assigned reading back then. The funny thing is that the two books that I actually made the effort to read turned out to be my two favorite books of all time. Even to this day, almost 20 years out of high school, and nowadays I read on average a book a week and I have read lots of wonderful books over the last several years, A Separate Peace and To Kill A Mockingbird still stand strong.
I truly cannot understand anyone bashing either of these two books. I think it reflects sadly on our society and our society's values. I think it reflects poorly on parents who have failed to cultivate a love of reading in their children which then spills over in to the schools where the teachers often are blamed for poor academic performance. Let's not forget academic performance begins in the HOME. The parents are their children's primary teachers.
So for those who called A Separate Peace "boring," "awful," "had no action," "wasn't believable," etc., how about trying to reread it a few years down the road when you are more mature and can appreciate excellence? And to the person who stated in his one-star critique of A Separate Peace "what kind of sixteen year-old knocks their best friend out of a tree because he's jealous???" - are you kidding me? Knocking him out of a tree was mild compared to the horrendous violence I have seen in the news over the last several years - even just in the last week or two!-of what people do to their friends, girlfriends, boyfriends, parents, siblings or complete strangers just because of jealousy or they have been angered over something big or small. In the news last week a 10 year old shot his 8-year-old brother in the face with a shot gun because he said his brother took his seat when they were watching a DVD. Huh?! So you kill him?
I have been rambling on, so I will wrap it up now. As a parent to a 4-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl, I will say that if there is only one thing I have done right as a parent thus far, it has been instilling in my children an extreme love of reading and appreciating books. My rule has been that whenever my child asks me to read, I drop what I am doing and I read to him and/or her. The two of them showed love for books before their first birthdays. My daughter is now a phenomenal reader and is reading far beyond her grade level. She loves reading to her little brother and seeing them do this is providing me with some beautiful memories of their childhood. I still have my copies of A Separate Peace and To Kill A Mockingbird and have shown them to my kids and one day will pass them along to them. I hope they enjoy these books as much as I have - I have a feeling they will!...more info
I've read this book twice in less than a year, but both times I was forced to and both times it was equally unenjoyed. I found everything about the story, especially Gene, extremely hard to relate to. Oh yes it's about envy and the loss of innocence and the loss of sanity and friendship and hidden feelings and yada yada yada, but at the end of the day none of this makes it a story worth telling. Not only is Gene unrelatable, he is also unlikeable. Finny may understand why Gene pushed him out of the tree, but I sure as sh*t don't. In fact, it angered me that Gene got to live on in what to me seemed like a zombie state and Finny, who had much more potential for a great life, did not. I thought Gene was stupid to assume that Finny needed him as much as much as he needed Finny. Gene tries to justify his actions by blaming it on the times or whatever else.. I say Gene is full of it....more info
- One of my all-time favorite books
A freshman English staple, it's easy to dismiss A SEPARATE PEACE as just another school book, but it's one of the classics which are classic for a reason. It's a wonderful example of an author's being perfectly suited to his subject--which seems like a no-brainer but often is a problem. Knowles' writing is beautiful, simple, and powerful, and his characters are so well-developed, even in such a short novel, that they're as close to real people as fiction allows. Phineas--who is, as far as I can recall, the only character without a surname--is an ideal hero; a Greek god without the hamartia of hubris. Rather, Finny's flaw is that he is noble enough to trust the nobility of others.
The book takes place at Devon School during World War II, at first the "summer session," new to Devon for this year, when all eyes are on the sixteen-year-old boys: old enough to be nearing adulthood, but young enough not to fear being drafted. The narrator, Gene Forrester, recalls the summer in an almost idealized manner, but not enough to leave out the trace of bitterness that was his jealously toward his best friend and roommate, Phineas. The latter session, the winter session of what I believe is their senior year (that part is a little confusing, but by the boys' ages--seventeen and eighteen--it should be their senior year), is much darker, dwelling more on the jealousy and guilt which Gene feels. Even then, with his glorious "Winter Carnival," Phineas tries to brighten the mood, but it is not to be. The plot rises to a horrifying climax and then falls over tragedy and reaches a very satisfying, but saddening, conclusion....more info
- This was the book that renewed my love of reading as a teen...
I had to read this in ninth grade and it truly reawoke my love of books which had waned somewhat in junior high. Finally a book that haunted me in a way that I could relate to, with characters whose inner lives and darker sides I could connect with on a level that usually wasn't acknowledged in real life. I've since recommended it to various teens I have worked with and I have yet to hear back from one who didn't love it....more info