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A Separate Peace

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  207,908 ratings  ·  8,616 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
Paperback, 208 pages
Published September 30th 2003 by Scribner (first published January 1st 1959)
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Thomas Yes, you are the only one. A boarding school is very strict and most boys were focusing on the war, not sex.
Melissa My gifted English class read it at 15. I would think it depends on the maturity of the 13 year old. I know I was reading adult mysteries at 13. I thin…moreMy gifted English class read it at 15. I would think it depends on the maturity of the 13 year old. I know I was reading adult mysteries at 13. I think it should definitely be read in adolescence. Teens need to be made to examine life and their choices and relationships with others in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable and I believe that ASP does that. As a girl, it was also interesting to see this male perspective of coming of age which I still find enigmatic. (less)
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Average rating 3.59  · 
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 ·  207,908 ratings  ·  8,616 reviews

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The Library Lady
Sep 19, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: overrated-crap
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?
Jeffrey Keeten
Jun 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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 creating and constantly maintained
Jim Fonseca
[Edited for typos and pictures added 12/11/21]

A short review because I can’t add much to the thousands of reviews that are out there.

The story takes place at an elite all-boys New England prep school. (A thinly disguised Phillips Exter Academy in New Hampshire that the author attended.) The two main characters are opposites in many ways: an introverted, intellectual Southern boy and a Northerner who is outgoing, athletic, a risk-taker. The latter is a natural leader among the boys but he strugg
Em Lost In Books
Gene attended an exclusive New Hampshire school. 15 years later he came back to Devon School to seek forgiveness for what he did here while he was a student. In his school days he became friends with Finny, an outstanding athlete. Finny was a favorite of everyone. fellow students used to look up to him as their inspiration and teachers were mighty impressed with this boy for whatever he said prevailed. Gene was a spectacular student academically while Finny's dream was to attend Olympics of 1944 ...more
Sep 04, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
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.
Jun 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: blog
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This is one of those "required summer reading novels". In fact, while I am sure they are out there, I don't think I have ever met anyone who read this and it was not required for school.

But, it was an enjoyable required read. Focusing on coming of age, schoolboy friendships, etc. Not too much else I can say without spoiling it, but it was kinda rough on the teenage spirit at the time. We think we can all survive anything when we are young . . .

If you were never required to read this one for scho
This is an American classic I didn't know yet, but got to know via Goodreads. Turns out many of my Goodreads friends read it already, so I discovered this is a well known book. Beautiful read. Brooding story, a coming of age tale with a dark side. Need to reread it again for all the details and the beautiful language. In some way it made me think of Brideshead Revisited, a grand book as well.
For those who don't know this book yet...
Set at a boy's boarding school in New England during the early
I was bored senseless. Let's leave it at that. ...more
Mar 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 1-fiction
Book Review
3 of 5 stars to A Separate Peace, a novel written in 1959 by John Knowles. I suspect if I were to re-read this "classic" again now, it has a chance of getting a higher rating; however, I'm not in a rush to prove the theory. I have a few good memories of the story, some a bit "blah," but overall... it was a decent book. When I read The Secret History last year, I had vague recollections of this being somewhat similar, though the topics are quite different.

At the core, this
Brian Yahn
Oct 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Maybe I'm bias, but a little bit of bromance could've gone a long way here. A Separate Peace is essentially a story of the relationship between two boys, and if it went a little farther, I think the points it made would've driven much deeper.

The plot mostly revolves around a single character, Finny, and although he's lively and exciting, this story is far from. And as such, I can't imagine it being too enjoyable to the middle schoolers and freshmen it is regularly assigned to. But for older more
I never killed anybody and I never developed an intense level of hatred for the enemy. Because my war ended before I ever put on a uniform; I was on active duty all my time at school; I killed my enemy there.

Only Phineas never was afraid, only Phineas never hated anyone. Other people experienced this fearful shock somewhere, this sighting of the enemy, and so began an obsessive labor of defense, began to parry the menace they saw facing them by developing a particular frame of mind, “You see,” t
Aug 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: public-library
Competitors and rivals. Best friends. There is always one who is more outgoing, more apt to take risks. Here we have one who is more comfortable abiding by the rules, the other flagrantly flaunting them. What about the one who is pulled along for the ride? Is he an unwilling participant or simply someone who needs a push? Suspicion and resentment, loyalty and betrayal.
Apr 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
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
Mar 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Dave Schaafsma
Aug 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wwii, ya
Since we have this new war in Ukraine to occupy our attention, I have been thinking of books I’ve read that speak to man’s need to kill each other, that aggressive, violent trait, and I recalled reading A Separate Peace in high school, as most people did in the USA in the sixties, as required school reading, in part because it was a coming-of-age book. There was a growing recognition in the mid- to late-sixties (the Student Revolution on college campuses was part of this movement) that books tha ...more
Carolyn Marie Castagna
“It wasn’t the cider which made me surpass myself, it was this liberation we had torn from the gray encroachments of 1943, the escape we had concocted, this afternoon of momentary, illusory, special and separate peace.”

To put it plainly, this book astonished me! It was alive with a plethora of my favorite literary elements and explorations of: loyalty, friendship, captivating descriptions, simple lyricism, poignant aspects of war, and examinations of the human condition. The list is endless real
Ahmad Sharabiani
A Separate Peace, John Knowles
A Separate Peace is a coming-of-age novel by John Knowles, published in 1959.
Gene Forrester returns to his old prep school. 15 years after he graduated, to visit two places he regards as "fearful sites": a flight of marble stairs and a big tree by the river from which he caused his friend, Phineas, to fall. First, he examines the stairs and notices that they are made of very hard marble. He then goes to the tree, which brings back memories of his time as a student
Jan 31, 2008 rated it did not like it
I had to read this book in 11th 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! ...more
Apr 10, 2008 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
Jenna ❤ ❀  ❤
Jan 18, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: classics, fiction
A book should be judged on its own merit, but I don't think I can do that with this one. Take my review with a grain of salt because I'm comparing it to a masterpiece.

A couple months ago I read A Prayer for Owen Meany. It is one of those books you eat, sleep, and breathe, not just for the duration of time you're reading it, but for months after. I'm still immersed in that book. I miss reading it.

I think I decided to read A Separate Peace mainly because it sounds similar. It often appears on "boo
Julie G ("Doctor, my eyes!"  Offline for a week)
Twenty-five years ago, my best friend in high school handed me this book and told me "you must read this." I did, for the first time, this week. I think it has fallen out of popularity as required reading in high school, possibly due to its New England boarding school setting, or its WWII time period or its characters only consisting of white, affluent males. However, despite some of today's youth being out of touch with some or all of these things, they are absolutely in touch with the central ...more
Mar 30, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Jan 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This text is a novel that I think is best appreciated by the mature reader.
It is also undeniably a masterpiece!
There are no heroes or villains in this text, merely representations of the many shades of humanity, as personified by the inhabitants of an all boys private academy in New Hampshire in the early 1940s. Through the voice of the novel's narrator (Gene) Mr. Knowles leads the reader through the miasma that is male friendship, and maturation. Love is never 100% without "bad" baggage, and wh
Mar 11, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Kimberly Dawn
May 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A close friendship becomes tragic when envy turns ugly and results in life-altering consequences.

Gene Forrester, the main character and narrator of the story, visits Devon, the boys prep school he attended as a teenager in New England.

Gene reflects upon his close friendship with Phineas, or “Finny” and the tragic events that took place at Devon during the summer and fall of wartime 1942.

Finny, a lovable character, is perfection personified as portrayed through Gene’s loving eyes. The loving f
Oct 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya, classic, favorites
5 stars.

I grew up with an old, yellowed paperback copy of this book sans front cover sitting on my parents' bookshelf. I remember seeing it there on that bookshelf for a decade and thinking to myself how stuffy and boring it obviously would be. It wasn't until I was 23 or 24 visiting my parents' house, inconspicuously stealing things to take home with me, that I decided to snatch it up from that bookshelf with a handful of other books it had never occurred to me before to read.

Maybe it was jus
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What has been your favourite book of all times? 1 7 Oct 28, 2021 03:19PM  
Goodreads Librari...: missing page count 2 10 Apr 02, 2021 02:07AM  
Finny's Personality 9 101 Mar 24, 2021 04:38PM  
Finny's fall- accident? 45 680 Mar 24, 2021 04:36PM  
2022 & 2023 Readi...: This topic has been closed to new comments. A Separate Peace 7 30 Apr 30, 2020 12:00PM  

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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

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