A Separate Peace is a remarkable story about the relationship between two young students, Gene and Phineas. Their friendship develops through the formation of secret societies and late night card games. A tragic event, at first glance an accident, changes their lives forever. As the story unfolds the friends have to deal with the fact that the unfortunate event was no accident.
An extremely well written book, A Separate Peace is a wartime story about New Hampshire schoolboys as they approach maturity and learning how to handle adult responsibilities. The story begins with minor incidents among friends. As the plot becomes more complex the story takes on new meanings.
A Separate Peace has many intriguing allegories. Leper, Gene's friend, is treated as an outcast by his peers and is shunned by society. Leper's isolation forces him to enlist for military service. The tree from which Phineas falls and breaks his leg is also allegorical. This tree is the place where Finny and Gene first learn about good and evil.
The various types of characters in John Knowles' novel, all necessary for a good story, make it an excellent choice for this reading list. Gene Forrester, the main character, is an exceptional student with average athletic skills. Phineas, in contrast, is
a poor student and changes from a superb athlete but following a catastrophe struggles to walk again. Leper is a rather flat and one-dimensional. Brinker Hadley, the class politician, is a static character with fixed attitudes and ideas.
A Separate Peace is a great read. The stories of Phineas and Gene can be a lesson to today's teenagers as they move into the increasingly complex world about them. The timeless lessons from this fifty-year-old story are certainly applicable today.