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A Separate Peace Mass Market Paperback – December 1, 1984

3.8 out of 5 stars 1,122 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 9 & Up--The volatile world of male adolescence provides the backdrop for John Knowles' engrossing tale of love, hate, war, and peace. Sharing a room at Devon, an exclusive New England prep school, in the summer prior to World War II, Gene and Phineas form a complex bond of friendship that draws out both the best and worst characteristics of each boy and leads ultimately to violence, a confession, and the betrayal of trust. Narrator Scott Snively's ability to switch seamlessly from the perspective of a teenager tormented by feelings he doesn't want to understand to the reflective musing of a man looking back at the formative experience of his youth provide both the story and the setting with an immediacy that quickly engages listeners. Not only does Snively give a distinctive voice to each of the main characters, he also delineates the mannerisms and personalities of the other boys and the teachers surrounding them. Intense, mesmerizing, and compelling, this rendition of a classic coming-of-age tale belongs in all public library collections, and will be especially helpful to high school students as an accompaniment to the written text.
Cindy Lombardo, Orrville Public Library, OH
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.


"I think it is the  best-written, best-designed and most moving novel I  have read in many years. Beginning with a tiny  incident among ordinary boys, it ends by being as  deep and as big as evil itself." -- Aubrey  Menen

"A quietly vital and cleanly  written novel that moves, page by page, towards a  most interesting target." -- Truman  Capote

"Is he the successor to Salinger for  whom we have been waiting so long? --  Encounter.

"A masterpiece."  -- National Review.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; Reissue edition (January 1, 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553280414
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553280418
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 4.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,122 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #396,082 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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.
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Format: Hardcover
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.Read more ›
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Format: 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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Format: 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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