Set in New Hampshire during World War II, A Separate Peace by John Knowles tells the story of Gene and his best friend Finny and their lives during this extremely difficult time in history. The novel begins with Gene returning to Devon boarding school after fifteen years and continues as he recounts his time at Devon.
Gene and Finny are roommates at Devon boarding school. Gene is quiet, introverted, and focuses on his schoolwork and studies. Finny is the complete opposite. Finny is extroverted, adventurous, and carefree. The book is not plot driven, but instead it is about the relationship between Gene and Finny.
What I really enjoyed about his novel was the characters. The characters are some of the most well-developed and interesting characters I have ever read about. I really enjoyed the interactions between the various characters and how different they are from each other. All the characters have their own individual personality and were developed very well.
Throughout the book you could start to see the effect of the war on each character and how they all react in different ways. Some of the characters enlist in the military to fight in the war, while others completely deny the existence of the war. Gene and Finny and their friends are a lot like all of us today. We all choose what to focus on in life and do something about, and some choose to turn the other way and pretend things don’t exist.
Another thing I enjoyed about this book is the symbolism and foreshadowing in the book. Right from the beginning of the book Gene states that something bad happens during his time at Devon and where it happens, but then we don’t actually find out what happened until much later when it happens in a flashback. It is a unique way of telling a story that keeps the reader interested in what may be coming next.
I would recommend this book to anyone in middle school through high school as I believe they would be able to genuinely relate to the characters in many ways. Adults may also find the details of the relationships that transpire during a tumultuous time in history an interesting read.
A Separate Peace by John Knowles is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.