Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A Separate Peace” as Want to Read:
A Separate Peace
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

A Separate Peace

by
3.58  ·  Rating details ·  185,565 ratings  ·  7,125 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
...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published September 30th 2003 by Scribner (first published 1959)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about A Separate Peace, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Thomas Yes, you are the only one. A boarding school is very strict and most boys were focusing on the war, not sex.
Julie I would definitely say a 13 year old is old enough to read this book.
I know a few people who had to read it in school when they were in their early…more
I would definitely say a 13 year old is old enough to read this book.
I know a few people who had to read it in school when they were in their early teens.. (less)
The Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. RowlingTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeePride and Prejudice by Jane AustenTwilight by Stephenie Meyer
Best Books Ever
49,680 books — 196,024 voters
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. RowlingThe Lightning Thief by Rick RiordanTwilight by Stephenie MeyerThe Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsThe Giver by Lois Lowry
Best Young Adult Books
11,259 books — 78,543 voters


More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.58  · 
Rating details
 ·  185,565 ratings  ·  7,125 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Start your review of A Separate Peace
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
...more
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?
Matthew Klobucher
Jun 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
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 ...more
Amanda
Jun 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: blog
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jim Fonseca
Oct 24, 2016 rated it liked it
A Separate Peace by John Knowles

A short review because I cant add much to the thousands of reviews that are out there.

The story takes place at an elite all-boy New England prep school. The two main characters are opposites in many ways: an introverted, intellectual Southern boy and a Northerner who is outgoing, athletic, a risk-taker. Hes a natural leader among the boys but he struggles with his studies. They become fast friends but impulsive horse-play leads to the death of one of the boys.

So
...more
SR
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
...more
Annet
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
...more
Matthew
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
...more
Zoeytron
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.
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
James
Mar 11, 2017 rated it liked it
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 is a
...more
Ed
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
...more
Loretta
I was bored senseless. Let's leave it at that.
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.
Whitaker
This is an American classic? Why? Now Im not saying that its a bad novel. I just dont see how its a particularly great one.

Perhaps, its 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 imagine
...more
mary
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
...more
Kristy
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!
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
...more
Manuel
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
...more
Rhonda
Mar 30, 2009 rated it liked it
I hadnt 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 ...more
Lou
WOW THAT WAS SO SAD. The only thing that helped me refrain from breaking down and sobbing = I own a used copy filled with old notes from a random, nameless person. And they took some great notes. So, I was riding that high + contributing my own notes & it was generally a blast. I highly recommend buying used copies so you dont feel bad about writing in them. And now maybe the next person who has this book, you know, when Im DEAD, can read my notes and be impressed w how insightful I am. ...more
Mariel
Mar 11, 2013 rated it liked it
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
...more
Burt
Oct 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Julie
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
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 Genes loving eyes. The loving
...more
Francisco
Jun 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
knig
May 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites, 2012
Right time, right place, right book: triple axis of alignment, all shook up. I dont 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 on
...more
Philip
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
...more
Debbie Zapata
Jun 17, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dar
This grimly intense story about boys in a boarding school during the summer of 1942 was painful to read. Not that it was not well-written, it was (which is why it got that third star). And I did get caught up in the storyline, I wanted to find out what happened next. But I could not seem to feel any sympathy for any of the
characters except Leper.

The boys know they will soon face the gruesome realities of WWII, and this knowledge affects each student differently. Besides that threat running
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
2020 Reading Chal...: A Separate Peace 3 9 Apr 02, 2020 01:09AM  
The Leftovers: Envy and Crumbling friendship 13 5 Mar 30, 2020 07:58AM  
The Leftovers: Change in Behavior 18 5 Mar 30, 2020 07:52AM  
The Leftovers: Naivete and Innocence 13 4 Mar 24, 2020 05:13PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Crucible
  • Where the Red Fern Grows
  • The Outsiders
  • The Scarlet Letter
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God
  • Julius Caesar
  • Things Fall Apart (The African Trilogy, #1)
  • Death of a Salesman
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
  • Bless Me, Ultima
  • The Call of the Wild
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany
  • The Pearl
  • A Raisin in the Sun
  • The Red Badge of Courage
  • Hatchet (Brian's Saga, #1)
  • Of Mice and Men
  • The House on Mango Street
See similar books…
269 followers
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
...more

Related Articles

As dedicated readers already know, some of the best and most innovative stories on the shelves come from the constantly evolving realm of young ...
47 likes · 11 comments
“There was no harm in taking aim, even if the target was a dream.” 2079 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.” 241 likes
More quotes…