It would be inconceivable for an American author to write a coming-of-age novel in a comedic vein without reckoning with J. D. Salinger's A Catcher in the Rye; and it would be equally impossible to explore the genre in a tragic vein without taking account of John Knowles's A Separate Peace. In a way comparable perhaps oly to The Lord of the Flies, in England, this book looms over American literary imagination as both beacon and sentinel, enticing as many emulators by its extraordinary success as it discouraged by sheer magnificence of John Knowles's accomplishment. Season after season, coming-of-age novels are still published, as they will always be, but succeeding generations discover for themselves why A Separate Peace brooks no competitors. Set among a group of boys at a New England boarding school during World War II, it shines a light into the highest heights of beauty and the most profound depths of evil that young men are capable of reaching. At once harrowing and luminous, brooding, and bittersweet. A Separate Peace has captured as if in amber the experience of adolescence for millions of readers over four decades.
An American classic and great bestseller for over thirty years, A Separate Peace is timeless in its description of adolescence during a period when the entire country was losing its innocence to World War II.
Set at a boys' boarding school in New England during the early years of World War II, A Separate Peace is a harrowing and luminous parable of the dark side of adolescence. Gene is a lonely, introverted intellectual. Phineas is a handsome, taunting, daredevil athlete. What happens between the two friends one summer, like the war itself, banishes the innocence of these boys and their world.
John Knowles, who died in 2001, was a graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy and Yale University, as well as a recipient of the William Faulkner Award and the Rosenthal Award of the National Institute of Arts and Letters.
Aubrey Menen I think it is the best-written, best-designed, and most moving novel I have read in many years. Beginning with a tiny incident among ordinary boys, it ends by being as deep and as big as evil itself.
National Review A masterpiece.
The Observer A model of restraint, deeply felt and beautifully written.
Warren Miller Mr. Knowles has something to say about youth and war that few contemporary novelists have attempted to say and none has said better.