52 in 52 Week 45: A Separate Peace by John Knowles.

File:A Separate Peace cover.jpgThis was on my "100 Great Books List."  Ten pages into the novel, I remember I had read it before. I had a discussion with someone telling them that I thought I had read it and told them a little of what it was about, and they said, "Oh that is not that book."  So, I believed them and included it on my unread list.  I should have looked it up. A short synopsis would have reminded me. I wonder why that person was so adamant about it. I do not even remember who it was, but they were so convincing, I questioned myself. Funny because I had someone adamant about something else recently, but this time I didn't believe them and looked it up. I need to not be so easily convinced. People love to do that sometimes in an effort to make you feel small. I made a choice to reread it anyway, and I am so glad that I did! I have warm feelings this morning because of it. A "separate peace" was hard to find, but I think I have found it. 

In my recollection, this was my first "pleasure reading" novel after high school in the summer of 1977. I was free to read anything, and I read as I lay in the big, brass bed of the family I was staying with after my parents moved away from my hometown. I wonder how much of it went over my head being that the main characters were about the same age as I was in 1977.  It is a coming-of-age novel. I had not learned about "the war within" but was embarking on that journey as I neared my early 20's where finding the equilibrium of "a separate peace" seemed impossible for me to find. That is why it was good to reread this book in retrospect of my life where that "separate peace" is always there now. 

The writing in this book is really simple and beautiful. The backdrop of World War II makes much more sense to me now that I have studied history several times over since then (thank you homeschooling). 

"As I said, this was my sarcastic summer. 
It was only long after that I recognized sarcasm 
as the protest of people who are weak." (p. 29)

This is my favorite line of the book. I detest sarcasm. Maybe I am not weak. I used to be around a group of cultural Christian that used sarcasm for sport at other people's expense. My husband would often have to walk out of the room because it got so bad. One husband of a dear of mine went overboard. I see now that he was just insecure, and he was still in a delayed stage of development much like the 16-17 year olds of the novel. I think her husband is stuck in a perpetual "sarcastic summer," and because he gets laughs, no one will probably encourage him out of it. I do not hang with them anymore (the book club that connected us all had more sarcastic people that I could not stomach anymore).  So, this quote from the book just sums up the problem I have with sarcasm. I feel stuck in high school with people like that. I do not look to people like this for crumbs of spiritual encouragement and find my fellowship with genuine people who do not fall into the mode of sarcasm when they feel insecure. But I digress. 

I recommend this coming-of-age novel. It is deep. As it was my first attempt, as a 17 year old who was also coming-of-age, to let literature take me to places I had never gone, I think I missed so much the first time. That is why it was poignant to read it again as I lay on back in another bed 35 years later.  It is so deep that one might miss what the book is all about, maybe those people committed to sarcasm as a shield to their insecurity wouldn't get it either.

Two thumbs up for this novel. It holds a special place in my heart now because I have "come-of-age." 

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