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154 of 162 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enter the darkness
In this darkly beautiful novel, John Knowles takes the reader on a journey, and it is no ordinary journey. 'A Separate Peace' plumbs the remote depths of the human heart--and it will take courage to face what is there.
This is, first and foremost, a character story. Gene and Finny are central to the plot, and to this end the author develops the characters with...
Published on June 12, 2000 by Ilana Teitelbaum

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24 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Seperate Peaces
Sort of as cross between Catcher in the Rye and The Red Badge of Courage, this was not a book on my list of assignments during Jr.and Sr. high school, but over the years it had come to my attention as one that could have been, so it came time to check it out.
Other reviews on this site have covered a lot about the story, and what it may or may not have meant, so...
Published on May 6, 2002 by Stanley M. Gilbert


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154 of 162 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enter the darkness, June 12, 2000
This review is from: A Separate Peace (Mass Market Paperback)
In this darkly beautiful novel, John Knowles takes the reader on a journey, and it is no ordinary journey. 'A Separate Peace' plumbs the remote depths of the human heart--and it will take courage to face what is there.
This is, first and foremost, a character story. Gene and Finny are central to the plot, and to this end the author develops the characters with piercing clarity. Finny's genuineness sets him apart from his peers, Gene included, who tend to act more in accordance with the way they think would be acceptable to others, instead of what is acceptable to themselves. Finny follows his heart in all his ways, and his achievements are a reflection of his love for life. In contrast, Gene is repressed, his achievements based on what others believe to be important. As a result, they are of no importance to him, because he sees himself to be lacking that unique, genuine quality.
The friendship which develops between Gene and Finny is beautifully drawn, woven with skill into the mundanity of everyday existence. The tragic turn it takes sends the rest of the plot, though outwardly inocuous, hurtling toward disaster and a darkness beyond imagining. 'A Separate Peace' explores the evil in the human heart, using this tale of betrayal as a parallel to the war raging in the world at the same time. While this may invite comparison with 'Lord of the Flies', they are in fact extremely different. 'Lord of the Flies' contends that humans are evil by nature. In 'A Separate Peace', humanity is shown to have a dark side, the cause of tremendous horror and suffering. And yet, there is hope offered in this book for humanity. Evil is not the be-all and end-all of our existence. For even as Gene must confront the evil within himself, a light shines through: the genuine love he has for his friend. Which is why Finny wept at the end of the book--not for himself, but for the betrayal of that loyalty and love which he had always known existed.
This only scratches the surface of the depth to be found in this masterpiece. However, I don't recommend over-analyzing the metaphors and similies and whatnot. I read this book without a class or a teacher, did not learn the significance of the metaphors, and probably for this reason more than anything else, loved the book. For the teachers who disparage the book as 'too boring'--perhaps if you would try to see the book as something more than an exercise in metaphors, both you and your students would benefit. The true power of this book lies in its clear rendering of the immensity and the frailty of human nature, the many shadings of light and dark which together create a human being. In the author's own words, this book penetrates to "that level of feeling, deeper than thought, which contains the truth."
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111 of 122 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AN EXCELLENT BIT OF WRITING, January 11, 2007
It has been said that A Separate Peace is the quintessential coming of age novel. That may quite be so. I certainly could not argue against that statement. That being said, I will say that this is one fine bit of smooth, restrained writing. The sentence structure, syntax and flow is some of the best to be found. If for no other reason, it should be studied for that reason alone. I note that there are quite a few critical and negative reviews on this one, for the most part, from kids who have been forced to read it in class. I, myself, probably would not assign this work to a general class in High School. I can remember from my school day, that anything that had the word "classic" attached, made m eyes roll to the back of my head before I even opened the cover of the book. An honors class, perhaps. This, at first glance, is a very simple book, but it is so much more. There are so many levels found in this work that it is actually rather difficult to track all of them with just one reading. I also feel that many of our young folks today would have problems relating to the setting and the situation addressed in this work. The subjects studied by the school boys of that day alone and at the level they studied them, would be difficult to find in any of our schools today. After all, it was published fifty years ago and times they have been changing. On the other hand, the emotions addressed in this work have been with us since the beginning of time and always will be. To the argument that it is a coming of age book written by another old white guy. This is true. Authors should write about what they know. The author was an old white guy, ergo, a coming of age book about a rich white kid. I am an old white guy and would never think about writing a novel about the life of a young Hispanic man living in this day and age. That would be silly as I would not have a clue. Knowles is a good story teller and a fine writer. I liked and enjoyed this work when it was first published and could well relate to the character at that time. I am old now, do not so much relate to the young man in the book, but certainly can relate to the old man telling the story. I do have to agree with another reviewer in that some of the pages in this book are absolutely hilarious, a fact often overlooked. All in all, recommend this one highly.
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87 of 100 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Timeless Classic, January 20, 2000
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This review is from: A Separate Peace (Mass Market Paperback)
A Separate Peace displays a tale of two best friends sharing the times of their lives while at boarding school. John Knowles displays the hardships that high school boys face away from home during World War II. The lessons learned, their independence, and the security they discover can never be forgotten in a time of war and fear. Many people can relate to Knowles' central theme of friendship. I thoroughly enjoyed A Separate Peace, by John Knowles. The fact that I also attend boarding school helped me relate to the novel. Although the plot is not filled with lengthy adventures and exciting climaxes, if one can read between the lines and view the book for its real meaning, he or she is sure to enjoy it. One must be able to see through that thin barrier that blocks the emotions from leaping off the page, and look into Gene and Finny's hearts. It's difficult to be dependent on oneself at such a young age. Finny and Gene form a unique bond and help each other survive tough times. While Gene doubts Finny on occasion, deep down he relies on Finny's constant support and humor to get through troublesome times. When Finny's love for sports and competitiveness ends in an accident, Gene is left to live with the reality of that eventful night. The book's controversy deals with Gene's battle with the truth and Finny's acceptance of it. A Separate Peace proves that trust and friendship can take years to develop and an instant to destroy.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's all about the symbolism, December 14, 2000
By 
Sara (New York, NY) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Separate Peace (Mass Market Paperback)
My freshman Honors English teacher had us read this book recently. Since I'd read it before, I thought I was in for the same old ride. But reading it a second time helped me pick up on a lot of things I had missed before. Yes, at times the book can become rather tedious. But the imagery that Knowles creates is just amazing. My teacher explained some of the symbolism parts of the book to me. The tree is an example of the tree in the Garden of Eden. It was a fall from innocence. But now for all you people who haven't read the book yet, I'll tell you a little background information. It's about a prep school in the north, where young students are attending and waiting for when they too will be shipped off to fight in World War II. It starts in the summertime with two friends, Gene, a quite and conserved academically minded boy, and Finny, the outgoing, friendly, and all around big man on campus. They seem complete opposites and yet they form a tight bond. And then something happens. And it changes their lives forever. And when Gene returns to Devon in the fall, everything is different. There is a lot more to this book then on the surface, almost like the characters. If you dig around a little deeper, you will find a book that is truly a gem.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Are you reading this for class...?, September 15, 2006
By 
porkchop (Richmond, VA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Separate Peace (Paperback)
If this book was assigned to you as a high school student, you may have a tough time liking it. Your high school teacher either doesn't like it but teaches it anyway, or else loves it so much that he/she can't understand why you don't.

"Who is this clown?" you're thinking. "Why should I care about this self-centered East Coast preppy who, by the way, actually HAS a choice of whether to go to war or not? Is it my problem that he can't express his feelings in a healthy way? Maybe he should go back in time and blame his Puritan ancestors. Or better yet, maybe he should wait until after the war, get together with his boozy network of good old boys, and impose his values on every single human being on the planet so we all have to suffer as well."

A valid point, but I swear to you, there's more to this book.

For one thing, it's funny. Don't let Gene's morose tone rub off on you. Finny is completely hilarious.

Even among people who really liked the book, there's a tendency to overlook how much Finny and Gene have in common:

-Sometimes I wish my friend were a little more like me...

-He can do some things I never could...

-There are certain situations where I'll do or say ANYTHING to keep from seeming vulnerable...

I think a lot of us can identify with thoughts like that, even if we are not of this book's time or place.

In literature, loyalty and love are around the most important themes there are. Knowles treats them both with real care in this book. The relationship between Finny and Gene is really something. You won't find many characters who care about each other this much. No kidding. I know Gene acts like a jerk, but...

Knowles also manages to weave all that in with an exploration of the subject of war that's actually very original, despite the relatively familiar framework of the basic plot. He questions whether innocence can survive certain situations, and the fact that, sometimes, we can't even tolerate innocence. There's an impulse to bring people down to our level.

By the way, I gave a four star rating because I wanted people to read this without thinking I was myself hopelessly in love with this book, but I obviously am. I would give it six stars if I could.

"Assistant crew manager?!"
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written, February 15, 2004
By 
Yong Hui Goh (Taipei, Taiwan) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Separate Peace (Paperback)
A separate peace, written by John Knowles, is set in a boarding school in New Hampshire during World War II. This book is a remarkable novel mainly about a unique friendship between the two main characters, Gene and Phineas. Gene is a shy, reserved intellectual, while Phineas is an outgoing, lively athlete. However the disparity between their personalities has a mysterious force that pulls them together. The friendship portrayed by Knowles is amazingly real- they waiver between hate and friends as mini-conflicts arise between them.
The campus of this school was situated out of the reaches of the war; most of the students are not bothered by what¡¦s happening in the outside world. However, as the students neared graduation and the truth slowly unveiled itself, it shattered the tranquility within the campus, and the students were suddenly faced with the shocking reality. A seemingly small incident had progressed into a huge conflict that ultimately was entirely comprised of evil.
This book is well designed and controlled. At critical times in the story, Knowles is careful not to reveal too much, which leaves the reader in suspense with the urge to read on. In my opinion, there isn¡¦t a definite plot (not saying it¡¦s a flaw of the book). In fact, the novel is written somewhat like a diary. Even so, Knowles¡¦ perspective towards the war is timeless, and his masterpiece would appeal to most people who read this touching story.
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43 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Unexpected Novel, February 3, 2000
This review is from: A Separate Peace (Mass Market Paperback)
A Separate Peace by John Knowles is a classic about two friends, Finny and Gene, who live at a boarding school during World War II. An instant classic, John Knowles takes the reader into a place that few have been to, inside the mind of an insecure adolescent, and lets the reader experience emotions that s/he might not in their day to day lives. A Separate Peace also explores how the common insecurities of a person might send him or her into a pit of evil that s/he might never recover from. Using well-developed characters and a plot that most anybody can relate to in some way, John Knowles makes A Separate Peace a novel that everybody should read. Normally, I won't go near a book if there isn't some sort of war or mass violence throughout the book. So when told to read A Separate Peace as an assignment, I was naturally reluctant to do so. I did enjoy reading this novel, once I got into it, despite the fact that it started off fairly slowly and there were points where putting it down was like relieving myself of a heavy weight on my shoulders. I soon realized that all of the boring and seemingly useless descriptions actually played a major role as the plot progressed and could not be ignored. Living at boarding school, I can personally relate to some of the emotions Gene feels through the book. After a while, I could not put the book down at all, and finished reading far ahead of when I was assigned to be finished reading. I do intend to go back and read this again when I have the time. A perfect novel for rainy days, summer nights or just when one has the free time, A Separate Peace by John Knowles is a classic for generations to come.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Separate Peace, October 10, 2000
By 
Seth Tucker (Thomasville, GA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Separate Peace (Mass Market Paperback)
This summer i was assigned to read A Separate Peace for outside reading. I have very busy summers and I don't like to read that much. I thought I would just bore my way through this book like I've always done before with other summer reading books. As I started this book though, I got more and more into it and really started to enjoy it. The main character of this book is Gene Forrester. He is telling us the story in his point of view which is first person. He has gone back to the school, Devon, after fifteen years to try to put what happened there behind him so he could go on with his life. Gene shows us that there is evil lurking every where because we see the potential of evil in the human heart through him. Finny is another very important character. Gene and him are best friends though two very different people. Finny has trouble in school but is excellent on any playing field and is almost too perfect. While we see evil and jealousy through Gene, all we see is honesty, innocense, and loyalty from Finny. The story takes place in the school Devon. Devon is an example of a small microcosm, which is a small world contained in itself. The war is going on outside the school while there is a small war going on under the surface at Devon. Gene is jealous of Finny and thinks Finny feels the same way but he finds out that he doesn't and that Finny is too good to be jealous. There is a tree which they jump from. This tree symbolizes the tree of knowledge and Gene's loss of innocense. As Gene and Finny were on the tree about to make the first double jump, Gene made Finny lose his balance and fall to the ground crushing his leg. Finny falls physically while Gene falls mentally and spiritually. Finny will never be able to play sports again or go to the war and he doesn't know that Gene caused the accident. Gene and Finny are still very good friends but there are many things throughout the story that foreshadows a trial that brings out the truth. Brinker sets up the trial and the truth wouldn't have come out except for Leper. Leper was a shy guy that kept mainly to himself. He had to gone to the war and became crazy. Leper was the only one that had seen Gene make Finny fall from the tree. When Leper was testifying Finny ran out of the room and fell down the stairs breaking his leg again. As Finny was in surgery, a piece of bone marrow got into his blood stream and stopped his heart which killed him. Gene feels like it is his funeral when he attends Finny's because he realizes that he caused Finny's death. I thought the author did a very good job writing this book. He shows us the potential of evil in the human heart and many other things. Many people can relate what has happened in this book to something that has happened to them. The author also did a very good job foreshadowing which keeps us reading and interested.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A SEPARATE PEACE, August 1, 2009
This review is from: A Separate Peace (Paperback)
I have my eighth-grade English students read a variety of texts throughout the year. If a student says, "I didn't like it," I have no problem with that (taste is subjective, after all), but I do require them to understand it. Often, people will not "like" something because they don't understand it. If they don't indicate they actually understand the text, then their indifference, dislike or detestation is unfounded. When we discuss a book in class, I find that the students who didn't like the book start to understand it, and, a large majority of them at least, start to like it (to varying degrees). A SEPARATE PEACE is the perfect book to prove this idea.

Part of the problem is giving this book to kids too early in their lives. In elementary school, books are plot heavy; in high school, books are heavy on character. If adolescents don't make a proper adjustment from plot- to character-heavy novels, a book like A SEPARATE PEACE feels like a kick in the gut and a punch in the face at the same time. This immensely character-heavy book is torture for people who aren't mentally acclimated to or ready for such depth.

This is a book that requires contemplation and, perhaps, re-reading. I highly recommend that you find a way to discuss this book with someone else. Questions will arise; debate may ensue; thinking will take place. Why did Gene do what he did? Why and how do we compare ourselves to others? Do we tend to remember events accurately or in the way we wish to remember them? How did Gene and Phinney really feel about each other? Why does Phinney not care about winning? What does Leper's meltdown say about character? About war? About peace? What does the title mean? These are not questions that have easy answers, but reveal character in a way that some students may be uncomfortable with.

I highly recommend this book for those who are ready for it. For others, it will be difficult to get through without feeling bored, lost or angry. Perhaps A SEPARATE PEACE says more about the reader than it does about the characters.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reading between the Lines, October 15, 2007
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This review is from: A Separate Peace (Paperback)
I first read the book when I was 16 and, frankly, quite a bit went over my head. It didn't help that I was learning English at the time and that the language of Shakespeare is not my native tongue.

My second reading was last week. I'm in my forties now and got a lot more out of the book. There are things said and unsaid, motives known and motives inferred, that deliver the full power of meaning to this masterpiece. It is rare that a writer shows such respect for the reader as to trust that one will be able to read between the lines. I don't much recommend this book for young readers, who typically lack the experience and perspective necessary to appreciate this book.

While the story had a powerful impact on me when I was 16, I could not quite make out why the story had made such an impact.

Fast forward to two days ago, when I finished my second reading. The effect of the novel differed by an order of magnitude. This is truly a masterpiece. Having an adult's mind and experience this time allowed me to glean much meaning. I found it especially interesting that I could infer Finny's thoughts and motivations with great clarity. This is a remarkable accomplishment by the author when one considers that the novel is told entirely from the first-person perspective of Gene, the protagonist.

The story is as powerful as ever and its message is universal. Perhaps the historical setting and the cultural conventions of the time leave the modern reader at some loss, but then again the very point of fiction is for us to live in another's skin, if only for a while.

Just because the novel involves teenagers does not mean that this should be the intended audience.
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A Separate Peace
A Separate Peace by John Knowles (Mass Market Paperback - January 1, 1985)
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