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Showing 11-20 of 312 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 907 reviews
on January 7, 2014
This is the story of two boys who are roommates in a boarding school at the beginning of WW2. Phineas is the leader, tempting others to do ever more outrageous things, and Gene goes along with him. Ultimately, tragedy strikes. The story is told by Gene, who has returned to the school to find The Tree, a very long time later. Haunting.
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on July 17, 2014
Such an amazing story... So epic, so emotional, relatable, believable...

I've always loved coming-of-age novels, and this ranks right in with The Kite Runner, Perks of Being a Wallflower, Looking for Alaska, Lord of the Flies, and is (in my opinion) infinitely better than Catcher in the Rye, which I also enjoyed.

It's just dark... and raw, and real-- timelessly so. It consumed me the whole time I was reading it. I just finished it, and am still living in its world, the world of Devon and Finny and Gene and Brinker and World War II.

It made me weep in parts.

Definitely one of the best books I've ever read.
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on June 10, 2015
This is a great book about growth and accepting the loss of innocence. I read this when I was in high school and loved it then because it had relatable characters. Even in college, this book stuck with me. In fact, I bought it, after wanting it for so long, in order to help me with a paper I was doing. This is a great book for teenagers and adults. I highly recommend it.
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on April 9, 2007
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.
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on July 16, 2014
I might've missed a very central idea of the novel, but I found it to be quite boring. There seemed to be too much "nothing" going on throughout the story, and it led you to think eventually "what's going to happen in this novel? I don't see it going anywhere or any turn of events happening and I'm about 3/4 through the book."

Things do happen, but not too many things do. If you've read Across Five Aprils before, it would remind you of this book.
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on June 30, 2017
The book was decent, mostly read it for school. If I were reading it for spare time I would read it again...maybe.
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on March 23, 2017
I found a Separate Piece a most illuminating work the characters were well rounded and very believable. I was touched and moved by their varied personality traits . I was truly moved by the outcome and of the waste of a young mans life , of all his potential, lost and not to be full filled .
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on June 26, 2013
I put down the book yesterday and cannot stop thinking about A Separate Peace. I find the book worth a write up and gosh it is so well-written that I may make it a re-read.

First, I'm middle class. I'm middle-aged and white woman. I've never lived at a prep school. Therefore, the setting was intriguing. I'm discovering that I'm very interested in WWII, so the time period was fascinating. Those two elements would of hooked me anyway, but the story of a friendship gone awry in one boy's mind and the other boy oblivious (although he lived with the quiet introvert) to tensions. That they are 16 years old and given to peer pressure is a given, but there is nothing raw and dirty. Snowball fights, Blitzball games, Olympics. Who led the way? The oblivious friend, Finny.

This is almost a total ode to Finny and his way of looking at the world. Finny was an athletic charmer and he charmed students, faculty with his incessant talking in such round-a-bout ways that even when he is off-topic he comes back to the original thought and ever so Finny way. You cannot help but like him.

Finny is impulsive and brave. The senior class use a tree to jump off into the river. Finny and his roommate go along with other boys. Finny bravely jumps off into the deep part of the river. This sums up Finny. He asks others to do, but he'll do it himself, first. The branch is high off the ground and has lots of land under it. You have to leap into the river or come to serious harm.

While that is said there is another story. Young men going to war. They are a year away from enlistment and the US is at fever pitch. War preparation: materials, young men in senior class is pressed into this book. Shoved. Contaminates peace of mind. The boys know they have a little over a year to face possible death at the hands of two possible enemies. As the book comes to a close you read about how they work to stay out of the front lines. They do not want death. Life.

Therefore, Finny constructs his world in NOW and the narrator, roommate, always joins in. Always. The storyteller walked in good shoes threw slush and mud to find the tree. He was forced out of his shell around Finny and even 15 years later Finny goads him to be not careful. His over concentration on Finny's character is what led to the book to be penned. He had to come gripes with the fact that Finny had no malice while he himself held malice toward Finny. He shook the branch that Finny stood on because he hate Finny and did not trust him. He has to live with ending Finny's athletic career and later life. After he does this disputable thing he tries once to tell his roommate that he shook the tree limb on purpose, but Finny cannot believe this.

War presses on and comes close. Finally, its their senior year and Finny is still roommates with the boy telling the story. He's still oblivious to the cruel nature of man, but the storyteller cannot live with himself. And, then Finny creates this grand story about the wars being fake run by rich men all-the-while Finny is applying for places in the forces which turn him down due to his shattered leg. A neighbor boy, Brinker, brings both of them to the auditorium and questions both of them about the incident that left Finny crippled. Other have questions about how someone so good at sport could lose his balance on the limb.

War is dripping. Enlistments are told and flashes of the war are told. So, at the time of questioning war is also the time of questioning how Finny got hurt. John Knowles just intertwines these threads tightly. A vice grip comes to head and Finny curses the puppet court and walks out, but falls.

The boys talk honestly and then you find out Finny died while the leg was being set. Bone marrow clotting.

Devastating. I knew the end was close. I had a few pages, but I miss Finny. His lightness and his inability to hold malice.

You know darkness can be illuminated and I think the narrator of this story is so dark and cold, but with Finny's closeness he seems less remote and less human.

Worth a re-read.
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on June 26, 2017
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on July 27, 2017
Good book
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