A Separate Peace
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A Separate Peace

3.54 of 5 stars 3.54  ·  rating details  ·  122,224 ratings  ·  4,160 reviews
An American classic and great bestseller for over thirty years, A Separate Peace is timeless in its description of adolescence during a period when the entire country was losing its innocence to the second world war.

Set at a boys boarding school in New England during the early years of World War II, A Separate Peace is a harrowing and luminous parable of the dark side of a...more
Paperback, 204 pages
Published September 30th 2003 by Scribner (first published 1959)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jeffrey Keeten
"And the rays of the sun were shooting past them, millions of rays shooting past them like--like golden machine-gun fire."

Gene is a boy from the South attending an exclusive New Hampshire prep school. He becomes best friends with a New Englander from Boston named Phineas. Let me amend that, Phineas chooses Gene as his friend and any thoughts that Gene has of being friends with anyone else are quickly dispersed as he is pulled into the shimmering chimeric world according to Phineas.

"The winter lo...more
Amanda
Sep 08, 2012 Amanda rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: blog
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
The Library Lady
I remember this book distinctly because seldom have I hated a book more.
In addition to being a depressing piece of work, it is about as relevant to kids today as a 45RPM single (that's something we had before CDs, boys and girls). Why are they still putting it on reading lists? What fan of John Knowles has been paying teachers to force this on the kids?
Matthew Klobucher
This book had a profound and lasting impact of me. It is a short, exquisitely crafted story narrated by a talented but unconspicuous boy who is jealous of his best friend, Phineas--who is athletic, beautiful, and kind. Phineas stands tall as the prodigy of American prep adolescence. He is simple; he is likeable; he has panache; and he is virtuous. His greatest crime to the narrator, though, is his love. For though the narrator is jealous and resentful that of his authentic golden-boy friend, he...more
Rachel
I remember viscerally hating this - I found it incredibly boring and I don't think anything really happened except a whole bunch of wank about being a moron and running and a paragraph lovingly describing a side character's butt. I don't even know.

Furthermore, it was for eighth-grade English. My teacher gave us a quiz on some random detail-bits, and I remembered little things like how many years had passed between Point A and Point Boring, and that somehow meant that I wasn't actually UNDERSTAND...more
Ed
My first novel.

Tiring of typical grade school fare I surreptitiously ordered A Separate Peace from the "other side" of the monthly Bantam book order form - unbeknownst to my Mother and my teacher. As grade school and high school books were shipped intermingled I plucked my order from the school shipment the moment the boxes were opened. Before I even opened the book I sensed that if I wanted to finish it, I better do so secretly.

I had no trouble reading the piece from a vocabulary standpoint b...more
Mariel
Apr 17, 2013 Mariel rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Gene genie lives on his back
Recommended to Mariel by: BirdBrian
All of them, all except Phineas, constructed at infinite cost to themselves these Maginot Lines against this enemy they thought they saw across the frontier, this enemy who never attacked that way- if he ever attacked at all; if he was indeed the enemy.


The book cares who is watching. Gene knows you are watching. Move in for an embrace, over the shoulder a good old boy smile. You know how it is, how it was. There we all were...

Confession? I don't place a lot of value in confessionals. If you wan...more
Whitaker
This is an American classic? Why? Now I’m not saying that it’s a bad novel. I just don’t see how it’s a particularly great one.

Perhaps, it’s ultimately because the book never worked to make me identify with the situation where the event took place. Instead, the entire conflict felt contrived. We are told of an atmosphere of driven competition in a school where everyone is an enemy and no one a real friend. But except being told so by Gene no one else in the book seems to notice this. I can imag...more
mary
this book devastated me.

i read it in high school, like most people. it was the year with all the "classics" that everyone has read at some point in schooling, all depicting young adults in various stages of angst or 19th century high drama or epic poems. whatever.

but this book gave me such a strong physical reaction - i sobbed and felt ill through so much of this story. i think i related too much with the characters for my own good, and the psychological slap-around of the evil in every person...more
Rhonda
I hadn’t thought of writing a review of this book until I read how many people disliked it. Far from wanting to simply "prove" others were wrong, I began thinking about why others might not like this book and its message. First, it is somewhat legitimate to dislike anything one must read in high school. However, if you never get past that point, life isn't much worth living. If you never come back and read some of the things on your own, you just aren't much of a human being. Rant as one will ag...more
Manuel
Apr 10, 2008 Manuel added it
I LOATHED this book. I was required to read this piece of crap when I was a sophomore at Carmel High.
When you are in high school, you are required to read many books as part of a required reading list. Often times, you groan when you pick up something that looks like it will be a chore to read, but in the end the book will have a semblance of value. Many books will entertain you or at least you can say you learned something new. I didnt enjoy reading the "The Scarlet Letter" or "Billy Bud", but...more
Kristy
I had to read this book in 11the grade English. I hated it. I had to read it again in college. I still hated it. I don't know why everyone thinks it's so great. Please, explain the appeal to me!
mark monday
uptight boy loves free spirit boy but is too uptight to admit it. fat-ass boy tries to get in the way. then, betrayal.
Monk
Nov 23, 2007 Monk rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Lit-lovers, Those Coming of Age
Most people would list the Catcher In the Rye as the ultimate coming of age story, but I beg to differ. For me, my coming of age book was A Separate Peace. It was required reading - we were not given a choice on reading it. Unlike prior assigned reading books, I actually READ this one.

I wish I could remember more of it.

What I do remember was that I liked it. It's about a boy growing up at a prep school, making friendships and planning futures provided the war ends and that they aren't all drafte...more
knig
Right time, right place, right book: triple axis of alignment, all shook up. I don’t say ‘masterpiece’ often, but this is what ’a separate peace is’: no if, buts and doubts. An understated study of the death of the soul.

On a personal level, it resonates with me because I too, did something incredibly ill conceived a couple of years ago, and just like Gene Forrester, it hangs over my head like the sword of Damocles: a silent, corrosive necrotisis of the soul. There is only one way to score peace...more
Julie
Mar 29, 2008 Julie rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: no one
This is the only book I had to read in high school that I hated. Usually I could find something to enjoy in all the books we read, but I hated this book. I'm not exactly sure why but to this day I get a shudder down my spine when I see a copy.
Amanda
Sep 05, 2008 Amanda rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: nobody
Recommended to Amanda by: TPR
Shelves: read-in-2008
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jim
One of the few assigned books in high school that I actually liked. It helped that I was in a school much like the one mentioned. Finny supplied us with several tricks that were perfect for bored, boarding school students, which added to the interest, of course. What drew me most to this book was that it captured the experience so well.

I've heard the novel disparaged because it's about a bunch of whiny rich kids. Obviously there's a lot of truth there, but these people miss the point. While pri...more
Callista
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Chris
Jun 15, 2008 Chris rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chris by: one of my teachers, way back when
In sophomore year of high school, “A Separate Peace” was on the ‘required reading’ list. Thus, it was practically guaranteed I’d either never read it, or wouldn’t read it during my four years corralled with my peers being brainwashed with the same routine gibberish. I’ve never cottoned to the concept of someone telling me what I must read; I’ve always enjoyed the discovery of a new book outside the standard fare chosen by nimrods of school boards which is shoveled down the throats of the masses....more
Tressa
I always read my older brother's required reading books long before I was assigned them, and for some reason this book spoke to me even though I've never been to an ivy league prep school and I'm not a boy. I had this book memorized by the time I reached 10th grade.

A wonderful study of the conflict between a naturally gifted and well-liked young man and the jealous friend with low self-esteem. A great book that teaches a moral code that one should live by and the ability to finally let go of the...more
Francisco
What makes a book last and last, continued to be read? I want to know because, if at all possible, that's the kind of book I'd like to write. Here's a book that was first published in 1959 and which I read when I was sixteen and now fifty or so years later I read again. It is the story of two friends, Gene and Phineas in a New Hampshire elite boarding school as War World II rages and awaits them. The forces of evil played out in the macrocosm of Europe and in the microcosm of a boy's soul. I rea...more
Logan Loring
Nov 30, 2007 Logan Loring rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who enjoy reading
Shelves: done
Book Review: A Separate Peace
By Logan Loring

The book A Separate Peace by John Knowles, isn’t a book that I think is worth reading.
Throughout the many parts of the book there aren’t many scenes that are exciting or jump out at you. If there are any exciting scenes, then there are very few of them. If you’re thinking about reading a book with the school story genre then A Separate Peace isn’t the book you should choose. In this book there are some new scenes every now and then, but when that new s...more
sj
The boy I was totally in LUUUUUUUUUUUUUURVE with my Sophomore year in high school? This was his favourite book. And by favourite, I mean...

He lived several hours away, but we wrote each other letters every day. We also played this game in our letters where we'd draw out song lyrics or book titles and the other would guess...and then the person who'd originally drawn the damn thing would have to remember what they'd been talking about in the first place to be able to tell the other person if they...more
Jake C
Jun 02, 2008 Jake C rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: knowone
Recommended to Jake by: Mrs. TB
This book was very boring and hard to pay attention to. It was mostly taken back in World war two. It conflicts with envy and jealously. I really didn't like this book because it was hard to get into it and the whole plot of the book was very dry and empty.

I suggest this book for people who really get into books easy and like books about childhood maturity and about stupid mistakes. This book does not have any intense parts. The climax is very weak. A very random even happens which is the climax...more
Phrynne
I'm going to give this book three stars because I enjoyed the author's style and I thought the character of Phineas was extremely well done. Overall it is a book which makes the reader think and try to understand the intent of each boy's actions. However I was extremely uncomfortable with Gene as the narrator. I felt I could not believe his views, either because he was trying to present himself in the best light, or because he was too immature to understand the motives of other people and thus m...more
•Erin• (Paperback Stash)
3.5

“There was no harm in taking aim, even if the target was a dream.”

Gene, you suck. It didn’t take long at all for me to despise you.

I had no idea what to expect going into ‘A Separate Peace’. I’d never heard of it before an enthusiastic friends-of-the-library volunteer recommended it to me when I was shopping at the yearly book sale. Since then I’ve learned it’s actually a classic that’s slipped under my reader’s radar. The length isn’t intimidating and the book reads quickly, accompanied by...more
Szplug
It is entirely possible that, were I to reread this today, it wouldn't rise to the lofty height at which it hazily soars within the literary shrine of my memory. But back in the day I thought that Knowles had crafted a powerhouse story that punched a number of those buttons—including that of the precariousness of forming and framing an image of oneself in relation to another—dialed directly into the heart and soul of a teenage boy, especially one with the experience of itinerancy and thus an acu...more
Corinne
I've known about this book for such a long time. I remember when I was a sophomore in high school, or maybe a junior, the other English classes read it. Everyone said it was pretty good - but all I ever knew about it, was that it was about teenage boys during WWII. So, I never had any desire to read it. Book club to the rescue, yet again.

I loved it - and it broke my heart. The book is not half so much about war, necessarily, as I had thought it would be. Really, it is the story of two boys and t...more
HRH
Oct 20, 2007 HRH rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: thoughtful folks
I'm the kind of kid who always wanted to go to boarding school and be mischevious. This book is about as close as I ever got to fulfilling that dream. It takes place at a boy's preparatory school in New England in the early 1940s. Narrated by Gene Forester, a sort of Nick Carroway type but with passion, it tells the story of Phineas, a charismatic, good-hearted athlete who turns Gene's education into the sort of memory one looks back on with longing and maybe a tear. Phineas makes up new sports,...more
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John Knowles (September 16, 1926 - November 29, 2001), b. Fairmont, West Virginia, was an American novelist, best known for his novel A Separate Peace.

A 1945 graduate of the Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, Knowles graduated from Yale University as a member of the class of 1949W. A Separate Peace is based upon Knowles' experiences at Exeter during the summer of 1943. The setting f...more
More about John Knowles...
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“There was no harm in taking aim, even if the target was a dream.” 1810 likes
“I felt that I was not, never had been and never would be a living part of this overpoweringly solid and deeply meaningful world around me.” 150 likes
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