Scott recently recommended John Knowles' classic coming of age tale, A Separate Peace, to me, and I read it over the weekend. I had heard a lot of great things about this book (and I love a good coming of age story to start with) but had never read it before. I wish now that I had -- it's a new favorite! I started this book Friday evening and finished it early Saturday morning. Yes, it's that good. I loved Knowles' writing style. His prose is elegant and lyrical yet highly readable. Knowles' description of WWII era New England boarding school life is also realistic and makes for a unique backdrop. The petty rivalries between the students and the outrageous diversions that they develop to stave off boredom especially rang true. A Separate Peace is also a compelling study of the joy of friendship and the insidious influence of envy. It's definitely one of the more moving books I have read recently. (You may want a hankie handy for the tear-jerker ending.) That being said, the book isn't a totally depressing read. There is a lot of wit and humor present as well.
As much as I loved the style, setting, and plot, the real draw for me were the characters, who were complex and exceptionally well-constructed. I sympathized with Gene, the novel's sensitive, intellectual protagonist, but I adored Finny. We all know a Finny, that upbeat, charismatic, and devil-may-care friend whose carefree personality is one that you both admire and detest. I read many novels that have strong main characters, but very few books have as strong of a supporting cast as A Separate Peace. Knowles created a vivid mix of equally interesting and realistic characters in Gene and Finny's classmates, which range from the misunderstood Leper to the enigmatic Brinker to the insufferable Quackenbush (Admit it: You laughed at the name. Don't lie! I saw you giggle as you were reading this blog post.)
I highly recommend this novel. A Separate Peace is a superb book on every level. Well-written and moving, this novel features some memorable characters that are well-worth getting to know.
By the way, I love getting book recommendations, so please always feel free to suggest books to me. I'll read them as soon as possible. :)
Next Week: Vikas Swarup's Six Suspects.
I also have two announcements. Hey, don't run! They'll be quick. I promise. First, you may have noticed the new pages I have been adding to my blog. (Just humor me and pretend that you did. *points covertly to top of page*) I have added "What's All This, Then", which is a history of my blog; "And You Are...", which includes more information about me then you would ever wish to know; and "What's Next?", which is where I will be posting the books on my TBR list that I plan on reading in the not-so-distant future. I plan on adding a few more pages over the next couple of weeks and will point them out when I do get them finished.
Now, for the other announcement. My good friend over at Ergo, Scott, tagged me to predict my future. I have to tag ten other bloggers and make predictions about where I will be in ten years. I would mention that Scott is an excellent friend (and blogger) with an outrageous sense of humor and impeccable taste in books, but he insisted that I am not allowed to tag him back, so I won't. Be that way, Scott. ;)
Hmmm...where will I be in ten years? In ten years I will be thirty -- the age of Hamlet. This intrigues me, because Hamlet is not only one of my favorite characters who I insist upon dragging into every conversation, but I once took a personality test that said Hamlet was the literary character that I am most like. The similarities between the Prince and myself were truly scary. (Of course, I also once scored as Lady Macbeth and Sweeney Todd on similar tests, so maybe I shouldn't take these too seriously...) Regardless, I wonder: When I am thirty will I also develop an alarming case of insanity that involves my being responsible for the murders of several people? (Gee, I hope not...) Will I wander around a spooky Danish castle reeling off witty non-sequitors and shrieking "Fie on it!"? (Gee, I hope so...) Will I be an indecisive emotional basketcase? (Gee, I already am...) I wonder about these things, but the thorny question that I really ponder: Will I still be in college, like Hamlet was? (Gee, I bet so...) That is the question! I mean, I plan on sticking around and earning master's degrees in English and history then getting a Ph.D. in history, so it's very likely I'll be one of those pathetic ABD grad students, slaving away on some dry dissertation that only the insane, drunk, or academic would plod their way through. That's all right, though. Maybe if I am busy writing a dissertation on the political beliefs of Russian Revolutionaries, I will be too distracted to sword fight anyone named Laertes...
Enough of my nonsense! Now for the ten bloggers I have tagged:
Jean (Discarded Darlings) -- for her always amusing observations on writing.
Aly (My Seriously Unserious Life) -- for always being so cheerful and upbeat.
Bec (Propose With Oreos) -- for her funny, informative "How to" articles
N.A. (Zac Serves it right) -- for her original, engaging series on Zac the cafateria worker.
Math is a Plentiful Harvest (Math is a Plentiful Harvest) -- for her superb poems and essays.
Ryan (The Dark Corner of the Mind) -- for his always excellent take on writing.
Jourdie (I Read This!) -- for his great book reviews and literary analysis articles.
Rose (Shadowland) -- for her haunting, beautiful poems.
Lucy (Amusing Seth) -- for her amazing blog posts and great links.
Glenda (Schemer's World) -- for her hilarious take on writing and life.