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A Separate Peace Paperback – September 30, 2003
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Aubrey Menen 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.
National Review A masterpiece.
The Observer A model of restraint, deeply felt and beautifully written.
Warren Miller Mr. Knowles has something to say about youth and war that few contemporary novelists have attempted to say and none has said better.
From the Back Cover
The volatile world of male adolescence provides the backdrop for John Knowles' engrossing tale of love, hate, war, and peace.
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The book is sometimes interpreted through the lens of repressed homosexuality, though John Knowles in a 1987 interview denied that as his intention. Indeed, the story is stronger when we resist that anachronistic reading. Instead, to the extent that A Separate Peace still speaks to us nearly 60 years later, it is only when read at face value, a tale about rivalry, jealously, and the mixture of nobility and evil that lurks in the human heart. Gene comes back 15 years later to try to come to terms with the enormity of his betrayal, to try to forgive himself. How many of us have stood before our own trees, longing to forgive ourselves for hurts impulsively perpetrated in the past? Knowles holds up a mirror to our own visage, and in so doing, guarantees that a lesson from an otherwise obscure setting and a forgotten time will endure.
Although A Separate Peace is anything but simple. It is a short but scintillating book, flawlessly written. Every word is perfectly placed, nothing superfluous. Every time I read it (or hear it, as nowadays I listen to an audio version) I am amazed anew at Knowles' ability to craft such a powerful story. I become Gene, and I squirm as my ugliest human traits are revealed. Listening to (or reading) A Separate Peace is like having a scab brutally ripped off, revealing the bloody wound beneath.
This is a truly unforgettable story that has a power few books achieve.