'A Separate Peace' by John Knowles

I recently finished A Separate Peace by John Knowles.

Set in an elite American boarding school for boys during WW2, it's centered around the friendship of Phineas and Gene. Phineas is a "golden boy" character, respected and loved by teachers and students alike, and the more bookish Gene wrestles with feelings of jealousy towards his friend.

All of the boys know that once they leave the school they'll be conscripted to the army and sent to fight, so each of them is trying to hold onto whatever is left of their innocence and childhood. They try to lose themselves in a temporary dream world of secret clubs and fantasies but even when they lark around together, it has a feeling of being somehow serious and crucial.

As well as being about the shadow of war, this is also a book about friendship, jealousy, guilt, damaged children, and the way we can completely misunderstand the people closest to us. It's beautifully written, gripping, and completely haunting.

If you like Richard Yates, Tobias Wolff or JD Salinger, or if you enjoy a good boarding school story like Curtis Sittenfeld's Prep, then you'll probably like this. Highly recommended.

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