A Separate Peace

By John Knowles

Words from the achiever

“I didn’t actually read Catcher in the Rye until I was 13, and ever since then I’ve said that’s my favorite book. It’s very clever, it acknowledges that young people are a little confused, but can be smart about things and see things that adults don’t really see. So I’ve always loved it. My second favorite book is the book by John Knowles called A Separate Peace. And that’s a phenomenal book. I’ve been reading it to my son recently. There is actually a movie made of it that’s fairly good, but I’d say the book is incredibly good. It’s about two young boys growing up; one who is sort of intentionally trying to be good at things and the other, Eugene is just kind of naturally great at sports and has this wonderful energy and they have this great friendship. And it happens to be at a time where the older boys are going off to war and they’re trying go figure out what does that mean to them. And the author talks about this period of his life as really defining, how the rest of his life, how he sees everything as sort of in comparison to this period where he didn’t really know where he fit in, you know, he thought of himself as maybe too calculating. And the end of the book, which I won’t spoil, is a bit of a tragedy with this friend of his, but it really talks a lot about what is our bargain with the world, how do we grow up. What are we worried about and how do we take that into adulthood.”

About the book

A classic coming-of age story set in a New England prep school during World War II. An introvert and a charismatic athlete become the best of friends until jealousy and and a mysterious accident drive them apart.

I went back to the Devon School not long ago, and found it looking oddly newer than when I was a student there fifteen years before. It seemed more sedate than I remembered it, more perpendicular and strait-laced, with narrower windows and shinier woodwork, as though a coat of varnish had been put over everything for better preservation. But, of course, fifteen years before there had been a war going on. Perhaps the school wasn’t as well kept up in those days; perhaps varnish, along with everything else, had gone to war.