Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Separate Peace by John Knowles

I think that I must have been the only person in high school that didn't have to read this book for English class.  And I have this wierd, almost romantic, notion that i will get through a lot of the classics, if not all of them, before I die. I also have this thing about books that occur on college campuses or at prep schools And this was one of those books that, on its face, seemed to fit all of those interests.  But I was disappointed, I must say and I was happy that the book was so short, comparatively speaking.

The novel is set at Devon, a prep school in New Hampshire (that is obviously loosely based on Exeter) during the 40's. World War II is raging on.  The novel focuses on Phineas (Finny for short) and Gene (the protagonist) who is best friends with Finny. They are seemingly best friends - at the very least, they became friends quickly. The honeymoon period is followed by a period of one sided animosity with Gene hating Finny with such intensity that it's surprising that nothing worse happened sonner than it did. It culminates, at least initially, with Gene knocking Finny out of a tree that they were using to jump into a river and with Finny receiving a shattered leg that ruins his athletic career. The book meanders on until the ending, which threw me a little bit for a loop, but then I became embarassed because I really thought that I should have expected it.

I didn't mind the fact that there wasn't a lot of action.  Some of the best books, in my opinion, don't have a lot of action in them but have a ton of stuff that you can still sink your teeth into - relationships, philosophy, a good story, characters that you connect with and care about. But this novel didn't have anything like that.  It didn't have a story, I didn't particularly care for the characters (or how Knowles created them) and I didn't particularly empathize with anything that happened either. Which meant that the story was just plain boring. And disappointing. And made me glad that I didn't have to read it in English class.

I would pass.

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