... magisterial ... there is nobility in celebrating the U.S. victory in a just war and honoring those who served. Samet reaffirms that truth while forcing our attention on a more complicated reality ... The downside of Looking for the Good War is that it occasionally becomes a bombardment of cultural references, as if Samet cannot help finding validation for her arguments everywhere; stretches of the book are devoted to film and book summaries. But the strength of this approach is to remind us that there has always been an alternative to the simplistic mythmaking around World War II and its impact on our national psyche ... And it’s clear that the more recent War on Terror was colored from the outset by World War II’s grip on our national consciousness, even if its reality has tracked closer to the nuanced accounts of war explored by Samet’s canon of countercultural voices.
... a stirring indictment of American sentimentality about war ... Samet is a fine writer with a gift for powerful arguments articulated in elegant prose ... Samet’s survey of books and movies that she consumed to try to discover a truer sense of the World War II years is intriguing reading. One senses that this was new territory for a writer who was born a generation after the war. She writes about these movies and novels like an anthropologist discovering cultural artifacts ... That a West Point professor is comfortable making such harsh judgments is a striking sign of our interesting times.
... compelling, enlightening and elegantly written ... This richly rewarding and thought-provoking book splashes World War II history across a broad canvas, with insightful discussions of the works of Homer and Shakespeare and the wisdom of Abraham Lincoln. Along the way, Samet convincingly argues that we should reflect on our current relationship to war in the light of wars past.
Samet will make plenty of people angry ... a text that sometimes meanders but is unified by the author’s ethical fervor. Samet, who has written eloquently about her experiences teaching literature at West Point in Soldier’s Heart and No Man’s Land, clearly feels a particular responsibility to urge Americans to face facts about the nature of war — any war. Her students leave West Point and go into combat; Looking for the Good War seethes with her personal outrage over attempts to sanitize the brutality and suffering they will inevitably encounter.
... discerning ... a work of unsparing demystification — and there is something hopeful and even inspiring in this ... Samet is maybe too insistent that the truth of the Civil War has been irrevocably lost to fanciful delusion.
Utilizing a variety of primary sources, Samet effectively demonstrates that this nostalgia has permeated popular culture throughout the 20th century and up to the present day. She makes the intriguing assertion that there is a direct link between World War II propaganda and the U.S. Civil War...Her contention about the connection between World War II and the Civil War in the popular consciousness, however, seems informed more by current conversations surrounding collective memory ... A thought-provoking, thoroughly researched work that asks readers to reconsider World War II mythology. Samet's analysis, solidly based in pop culture, will be welcomed in public library collections and will appeal to readers of military history.
... iconoclastic ... Concentrating more on critical theory than politics or history, Samet probes interpretations of war in literary and cultural works ... Samet's analysis is sometimes incisive but more often rambles through age-old indictments of the glorification of war. Ultimately, this intriguing provocation is too broad and unfocused to reveal much about why America keeps going into battle.