Monday, August 3, 2009

BR: A Separate Peace

by John Knowles

This review isn't gonna be as comprehensive or detailed as it could be, but this is intentional. I feel like a review really wouldn't do this book justice, especially since it has been called a 'classic', and there is already loads and loads of reviews/summaries on the internet.

A Separate Peace is about the narrator, 16-year-old Gene, and his relationship with his best friend Finny. Gene excels at academics, and Finny at athletics. They are almost the complete opposite of each other in every way, with Gene being quiet, while Finny charms everyone around him with endless charisma. Gene is obviously envious of Finny's attitude and athleticism. The two boys attend an English all-boys private school, Devon, where they have adventures, clubs, and sports all in the midst of WWII (year 1942). Gene convinces himself that Finny hates him for being smart, and inadvertently causes Finny to fall from a tree, crippling his leg. Gene had blinded himself with jealousy to justify the act, but Finny refuses to believe the worst in Gene. After the fall, Gene and Finny develop a 'codependent relationship', with Finny trying to live life through Gene, and Gene letting him. All the while, there's the war looming in, threatening the boys' peace.

That wasn't a good summary, I know, but I don't really know how to sum this book up without just outlining the whole plot.

I think A Separate Peace is one of those novels that you're forced to read in school, and then analyze it, especially since it is rich in symbols (summer/winter session especially) and themes. I don't want to turn this into a novel study or whatever, so I just wanted to say that to my surprise, I enjoyed it. These kind of novels are 'hard' to read for me, since I struggle to continue when writing gets a bit boring. However, even I could recognize how well written it is, so I really appreciated it by reading carefully.

I had a like/dislike relationship with Gene. He was awfully stupid (like not academically stupid, the other kind), envious, and generally hateful of his best friend who never did anything bad to him. He made himself believe that Finny was the 'bad guy' in all this, which of course, eventually destroys Finny's life. Finny symbolizes innocence, something Gene wrecked when causing Finny's fall. So more dislike than like for Gene, I think. Their friendship was very well written too, I think, even from Gene's POV.

I think it's one of those love/hate novels, like To Kill A Mockingbird (liked it) or The Chrysalids (hated it). I probably wouldn't recommend this to people who just want to 'read for fun', since it's not exactly a light, fluffy read. I liked it, didn't love it, but that is MY opinion, which will no doubt vary from yours.

8/10- which is my personal opinion, once again. I think it might be good if you're doing a high-school novel study or something, but not exactly the type of 'summer read', if that's what your looking for. I can think of a lot of people who might hate this too. Oh, and despite what the back reads (with two boys, friendship, summer, etc..) it's not sexual in any way.


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