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A Separate Peace - John Knowles >"And the rays of the sun were shooting past them, millions of rays shooting past them like--like golden machine-gun fire."

Gene is a boy from the South attending an exclusive New Hampshire prep school. He becomes best friends with a New Englander from Boston named Phineas. Let me amend that, Phineas chooses Gene as his friend and any thoughts that Gene has of being friends with anyone else are quickly dispersed as he is pulled into the shimmering chimeric world according to Phineas.

"The winter loves me," he retorted, and then, disliking the whimsical sound of that, added, "I mean as much as you can say a season can love> What I mean is, I love winter, and when you really love something, then it loves you back, in whatever way it has to love." I didn't think that this was true, my seventeen years of experience had shown this to be much more false than true, but it was like every other thought and belief of Finny's: it should have been true. So I didn't argue.

Gene, maybe because he is going to school with boys from New England who have the advantage of generations of proper schooling drilled into their DNA, feels the insecurity of his origins acutely and feels the pressure to apply himself to his studies. In fact he is in contention for the top of class until Phineas's antics start to distract him too much from his academic endeavors.

Phineas is a prophet, a boy so convinced in his own convictions that he can persuade anyone to not only do anything, but also believe in why they are doing it. One such inspired creation was to convince his friends to follow him onto a slender tree limb and spring from it into the lake. He forms a society around the event. To join, one must take the plunge.

Phineas is a fine athlete and as Gene starts to weigh their relationship he starts to believe that Finny is intentionally pulling him away from his study to keep the scales of friendship out of balance. He feels his academic record compensates for Phineas's awards for athleticism. He wants to feel equal, deserving of the friendship. When Phineas pulls him away from his French studies to attend a now ritualized lake baptism, Gene goes, but his mind is in a dark place.


The results are a turning point in the book. Gene is so worried about his own insecurities he mistakes Phineas's confidence for worldly assurance. In reality, Phineas is the most naive of them all. In the enclosed environment of Devon School he can bend the world to fit his own kaleidoscopic. For a while he can even convince himself that the ongoing war is a hoax. "That's what this whole war story is. A medicinal drug...the whole world is on a Funny Farm now. But it's only the fat old men who get the joke. And Phineas of course.

Betrayal begets more betrayal and Gene and Phineas both discover they are not who they perceive themselves to be. They become straw versions of themselves, so shattered and shaken that they can barely remember joys experienced mere months before. A lifetime friendship is reduced to a fraction of it's intended span.

This book stands on the shoulders of Phineas. He is simply an amazing character who lifts a wallflower of a plot to the level of a masterpiece. I wanted to be his friend. I wanted to help him maintain his delusions. I wanted to breath life into the way he wanted the world to be. Highly Recommended!