outlined articles, readings in bullet points and short articles are almost always my thing. never i were a fan of long readings… and unfortunately these include books. even during school days, i won’t read line per line. instead, i would just scan over pages of books and try to get some key words or sentences that would stick with me and be able to make do with these information in time for an exam or a paper.
so i was surprised with myself when i actually finished a book! on my way to bangkok in january of last year, i brought with me a copy of a separate peace by john knowles. i was just thinking that i would have something to be busy with during the flight when the movies being shown would not be interesting at all.
i got this book in fully booked bonifacio high street in one of those solo flights. the cover had a quote by aubrey menen saying that this john knowles novel was written and designed well that began with a tiny incident among ordinary boys but ends up by being deep and “as big as evil itself.” and true enough, the book kept me glued as if i was watching an outstanding telemovie. similar to more formal reviews of the book, knowles’ novel is “a model of restraint” and “deeply felt.”
gene forrester remembered his days as a 16 year old in an elite new hampshire school when he came back to devon, his school where he met his friend and roommate, phineas (or finny). a tree by the river became a central character in gene and finny’s friendship. finny, the school’s best athlete, likes to jump from the tree into the river and always dares gene to also take the plunge. from here, the suicide society was born, with finny as the de facto leader, cementing gene and finny’s bond. however, gene started to feel that finny is deliberately preventing him from becoming the best student in school as finny pressures him to go in with all of the former’s activities, especially that of the suicide society. gene’s unspoken hatred of finny grew, especially when he failed a math test. once again, finny coaxed gene to go jumping into the river. when both of them were in the high branch of the tree, gene spontaneously jolted the branch causing finny to fall.
finny’s legs were shattered, putting an end to his sporting career. finny had to go home to recover, where gene visited him. during this visit, gene confessed to finny that he brought about finny’s fall when he jolted the branch. finny did not believe gene’s confession. by becoming close to brinker hadley, gene opts to enter military service. this plan evaporated with finny’s return, who declared that the war isn’t true and gene should train to become an athlete to join the 1944 olympics. one evening, brinker and the other members of the suicide society brought gene and finny to mock trial, where finny learns of his friend’s guilt. he furiously left the room and fell on the stairs.
as he broke his legs again, finny was brought to the infirmary. when the two got the chance to talk, finny asked gene whether he really meant hurting him or not. gene admitted that he acted without resentment and what happened was a result of impulse, which was accepted by finny. finny dies during the operation. gene felt that a part of him also died with finny – it was the part of himself that secretly held deep envy of his friend’s sporting achievements. he understood that deep within him, he had ill will towards finny, which was his real war at devon. with finny’s death, gene got his peace, a separate peace.