Peace breaks out by John Knowles
New York : Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1981. First edition, with full numbers line. Hardcover. 193 pages ; 22 cm. In very good condition with the original price clipped dust jacket, has firm binding, clean and unmarked pages.
Peace Breaks Out
From the author of A Separate Peace, one of the most admired and widely read novels of the past twenty years, comes this companion novel, told with the same simplicity and power that have made its predecessor a modern classic.
The setting is again Devon School, a boys' prep school in New Hampshire. The time is 1945: the end of the war, the beginning of the peace. Back to Devon, where a decade earlier he'd been a student, comes Pete Hal I am — ex-infantryman in the Italian campaign, ex-P.O.W. —to teach American History and coach athletics. Pete sees Devon as a kind of way station to recover from his wartime wounds (physical and spiritual), where he'll have a respite from the world and its problems, and quiet enough to decide his peacetime future.
His expectation is that the school will be unchanged by war, and so it appears on the surface. But the boys he is to teach are another matter. Whereas Pete and his generation had asked "What will we do when war breaks out?" these boys — too young to fight in the war, who grew up in its shadow — have been asking in a mix of relief, guilt, and anxiety, "What will we do when peace breaks out?"
A seemingly minor incident, on the first day of Pete's class, when two of the students — Hochschwender, the brilliant, wrong-headed, defiant Nazi-admirer, and Wexford, the precocious, power-obsessed editor of the school paper—clash on a question of American history, sets in motion a ferocious enmity over which Hallam has no control. Instead of the peace he has come in search of, he finds in this pastoral setting the violence and evil of war repeating themselves, as the tensions of the new generation of boys are fueled by restlessness and culminate in tragedy.
Once again, as E. M. Forster said of A Separate Peace, John Knowles has written what is "recognizably a school story, yet into it get large adult issues." The questions Peace Breaks Out raises go far beyond the confines of Devon School to touch us all.
John Knowles, a graduate of Phillips Exeter and Yale, now lives in Southampton, Long Island. He is the author of seven novels, a book on travel, and a collection of stories.
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