Author: John Knowles
A Separate Peace is an interesting short novel that takes place at a boy’s boarding school in New Hampshire in 1941. It’s narrator is a student there named Gene, and the subject of the story is the relationship between him at his best friend Phineas. During a summer session at Devon School, only a handful of boys are left living there. Phineas, commonly known as Finny, seems to be the life of the summer. He invents games and cooks up new things to do and ways to break the rules constantly to amuse himself and those around him.
One such idea, jumping out of a tree into the river below, turned out to be the one that would change Finny completely. He wanted to do a double-jump — both he and Gene would leap off together into the water. When Gene jounced the limb on which they were standing, Finny lost his balance and fell. His leg was broken — very messy and difficult to heal. The implications that this would have on Finny’s life becomes the driving force of the novel.
This book’s greatest strength is its characters. Finny and Gene are two very different people, but they have developed a close — and interesting — relationship. The situations where we have these two characters interacting are written expertly. The different characteristics of each shine through. A few elements in both characters make it easy to relate to them, and make it easy for the reader to fall in love with them.
Character interaction in A Separate Peace also displays a lot of emotion. The thoughts in Gene’s head alone are fascinating to read, but the confrontation between Gene and Finny in the “Assembly Room” is beyond any other scene in the book.
A Separate Peace is not a difficult, or long, book to read. As simple as it may seem, however, there are many levels at which Knowles thoroughly stimulates the mind. He provides us with a very believable glimpse into the minds of his characters so that we may feel their every emotion. He has a talent with setting and atmosphere — the cold, crisp days at Devon School seems as real as images of far-off war the boys see every day. This deep and chilling novel is not one to be missed.