Monday, September 28, 2015

Books Read in 2015: "A Separate Peace" by John Knowles


So this was a bit of a personal challenge to myself. A few months ago, we read some YA novels in the book group that I'm a part of, and everyone came up with a bunch of titles that we thought were particularly memorable. Someone brought up this book, and I had a really strong reaction against it. The more I thought about it, though, I couldn't remember exactly what it was that I had disliked about it. I suspected that it may have been that I had to read it for not just a class but TWO classes; once in junior high and again the next year in high school. 

Since there is often no surer way of wringing the joy out of anything than forcing someone to read something for a class that they have no choice but to take, and because I've had good experiences in re-reading things that I read once upon a time ("The Crucible" comes to mind), I thought that I'd find a copy of this and give it another shot.

It started out fine. I got to the part where Phineas first gets hurt and all was well. I got about halfway through and thought that I was going to have to apologize to the person who had brought up the title in the book group. There were some interesting things going on that I hadn't remembered, some characterizations and psychological explorations that I probably hadn't picked upon way back when. 

Then things went wrong. Characters acted in ways that didn't make any sense. The strange, half-assed Star Chamber like trial came out of nowhere and had no real consequences for the people who'd brought it about. I *still* don't understand why any of the characters involved thought it was either a good idea or necessary. Then the Big Shocking Development that was supposed to change everything was tossed off so casually, and the person who revealed it seemed more concerned about exculpating himself than he did for the care of his charge, that it was a reminder of just how goofy it had come across the first (and second) time that I read it. 

Anyway, I gave it a shot, but the students who are still subjected to this every year continue to have my sympathies.