The plot mostly revolves around a single character, Finny, and although he s lively and exciting, this story is far from And as such, I can t imagine it being too enjoyable to the middle schoolers and freshmen it is regularly assigned to But for older patient readers, there s plenty to enjoy What it lacks in excitement, it makes up in every other way.
The prose, while pretty plain, is beautiful and flows so well it s easy to burn through this book in no time The plot, while simple, has a few shockers and with the story being so short it almost comes off as a page turner Finny is simply one of the funnest, most interesting characters I ve come across And the way John Knowles relates the war to school, and the way the incidents in the story affect Finny s relation to the war and his best friend It s just brilliant.
And the rays of the sun were shooting past them, millions of rays shooting past them like like golden machine gun fire Gene is a boy from the South attending an exclusive New Hampshire prep school He becomes best friends with a New Englander from Boston named Phineas Let me amend that, Phineas chooses Gene as his friend and any thoughts that Gene has of being friends with anyone else are quickly dispersed as he is pulled into the shimmering chimeric world creating and constantly maintained by PhineasThe winter loves me, he retorted, and then, disliking the whimsical sound of that, added, I mean as much as you can say a season can love What I mean is, I love winter, and when you really love something, then it loves you back, in whatever way it has to love I didn t think that this was true, my seventeen years of experience had shown this to be much false than true, but it was like every other thought and belief of Finny s it should have been true So I didn t argue.
Gene, maybe because he is going to school with boys from New England who have the advantage of generations of proper schooling drilled into their DNA, feels the insecurity of his origins acutely and feels the pressure to apply himself to his studies In fact he is in contention for the top of class until Phineas s antics start to distract him too much from his academic endeavors Phineas is a prophet, a boy so convinced in his own convictions that he can persuade anyone to not only do anything, but also believe in why they are doing it One such inspired creation was to convince his friends to follow him onto a slender tree limb and use it as a springboard into the lake He forms a society around the event To join, one must take the plunge Phineas is a fine athlete and as Gene starts to weigh their relationship he starts to believe that Finny is intentionally pulling him away from his study to keep the scales of friendship out of balance He feels his academic record compensates for Phineas s awards for athleticism He wants to feel equal He wants to deserve the friendship When Phineas pulls him away from his French studies to attend a now ritualized lake baptism, Gene goes, but his mind is in a dark place The results are a turning point in the book Gene is so worried about his own insecurities he mistakes Phineas s confidence for worldly assurance In reality, Phineas is the most naive of them all In the enclosed environment of Devon School he can bend the world to fit his own kaleidoscopic For a while he can even convince himself that the ongoing war is a hoaxThat s what this whole war story is A medicinal drugthe whole world is on a Funny Farm now But it s only the fat old men who get the joke.
And Phineas of course.
Betrayal begets betrayal and Gene and Phineas both discover they are not who they perceive themselves to be They become straw versions of themselves, so shattered and shaken that they can barely remember joys experienced mere months before A lifetime friendship is reduced to a fraction of it s intended span This book stands on the shoulders of Phineas He is simply an amazing character who lifts a wallflower of a plot to the level of a masterpiece I wanted to be his friend I wanted to help him maintain his delusions I wanted to breath life into the way he wanted the world to be Highly Recommended If you wish to see of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit also have a Facebook blogger page at
I remember this book distinctly because seldom have I hated a book.
In addition to being a depressing piece of work, it is about as relevant to kids today as a 45RPM single that s something we had before CDs, boys and girls Why are they still putting it on reading lists What fan of John Knowles has been paying teachers to force this on the kids This book had a profound and lasting impact of me It is a short, exquisitely crafted story narrated by a talented but unconspicuous boy who is jealous of his best friend, Phineas who is athletic, beautiful, and kind Phineas stands tall as the prodigy of American prep adolescence He is simple he is likeable he has panache and he is virtuous His greatest crime to the narrator, though, is his love For though the narrator is jealous and resentful that of his authentic golden boy friend, he cannot even express it because Phineas has always been kind to him That is an elemental frustration, native to adolescence and loneliness, and no book I have ever read has treated that frustration with compassion and justice If novels are supposed to provide beauty and help us understand ourselves, this is perhaps a perfect example incidentally it is highly entertaining, in the sense of being a fantastic story Though not as raw or impassioned as Catcher in the Rye, this book resonates with the same themes and mastery of subject.