A Separate Peace by John Knowles
A Separate Peace is a ‘coming of age’ novel that takes place at an exclusive prep school in New England during the onset of World War II. It is the summer of 1942. The school grounds are nearly deserted except for a small group of boys who for some unknown reason remained on campus, whiling away the hours dreaming up adventurous activities to escape the boredom of the long, hot and lazy afternoons.
Two central characters are seventeen year old Gene Forester and his best friend and room mate Finny. Finny is the group leader, the school’s top athlete, handsome, fearless, charismatic, sincere, and an all-around great kid. And even thought Gene claims the position of top academic achiever and is also good at sports, he never quite feels deserving of Finny’s friendship. In fact, Gene admits there is a constant nagging undertone of rivalry and competitiveness.
As the summer progresses, the uncertainty of the future looms over them like a dark cloud. They realize that as soon as they graduate from their final year of school-unless they choose to enlist before the term ends- they will surely be drafted. So in an atmosphere of nervous apprehension, Finny forms an exclusive club called “The Super Suicide Society of the Summer Session” and invents daring exploits for its members. The inside cover of A Separate Peace says the story begins “with a tiny incident among ordinary boys, and ends by being as deep and as big as evil itself”.
The events that occur are the turning point in the lives of the group and it is a haunting tale indeed… just one split second, one bad decision, one moment of weakness or bad judgment. Evil? That is for the reader to decide. The story is purely fiction, but takes on an eerie sense of reality as the tranquil summer recess of carefree innocent fun and games explodes in horrifying tragedy.
A Separate Peace was written in 1959. It has become a classic, frequently used in high school reading assignments as a character study and an example of outstanding writing skill.
Rated 4.5 Stars
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