Tuesday, February 7, 2023

A Separate Peace by John Knowles

What is your favorite coming of age book, story, or movie?  Two of my all-time favorites are Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  This was my first time reading the coming-of-age novel, A Separate Peace by John Knowles and it was an excellent story.  This novel was chosen as the January selection by the Back to the Classics Book Club at the Kewaunee Public Library.  We had a great discussion about this book.

Set in 1942, intellectual Gene and athletic Phineas are best friends.  They are having a great summer at school until a tragic accident.  How will these two friends move forward?  I had never read this book and was surprised by the story.  I don’t want to ruin it for anyone else.

I liked the deep look at friendship and at bullying in this novel as it related to the different boys at the school. It was interesting to me to also look at how often there is a dominate friend and how does that impact your friendship?  It was a good coming of age story that looked at male bonding, friendship, jealousy, and betrayal.

This was a quick and thoughtful read that is interesting to discuss.  I really liked that it was set as a reflection of a man in the future looking back at the events that happened that summer and how they shaped him.  I thought the setting was fascinating as it was set in 1942 as this generation saw their friends graduate and go off to war.

My edition had a great afterward as well as good questions for a book club.  We went over some of the selections during our meeting.

I did not read this in high school or college, but I think it would be a great book to read in high school.  Although set in a different time period, it involves teenagers and would be more relatable than many of the classic books I read in high school. 

Favorite Quotes:

“Nothing endures, not a tree, not love, not even a death by violence.”

“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 attached that way – if he ever attacked at all; if he was indeed the enemy.”

Book Source:  Purchased from Amazon.com


  1. Mystica VarathapalanFebruary 7, 2023 at 9:05 PM

    I like the quotes you’ve chosen. It sounds a real classic.

  2. I had to read this book in high school and I loved it, even though it's so sad.

  3. I read this at about the same age as the characters and found it very moving. Oddly enough, I realize now I had been misremembering the way it ended. I think I will need to reread it.