Eileen (Palos Park IL)
Despite Elizabeth Samet's position as, essentially, a civilian English professor, she shows a keen sensitivity and thoughtful introspection into the lives of our military in Soldier's Heart. Samet is unafraid to bring difficult, but immediately relative, topics to light that are typically ignored or avoided by both members of our military as well as by those who are not directly involved or connected with such organizations. What I found most eye-opening about Soldier's Heart were Samet's discussions on the difficult, dichotomous relationships between personal philosophic reflection and a purely honorable desire to serve one's country within a soldier. I believe this is a book for anyone who appreciates not simply the members of our military, but for those of us who see value in what it means to truly understand how much they are willing to give.
Carole (Burlington WI)
High school students considering a military academy education and career will quickly find that they will be expected to tackle challenging literature - a good reading list for any academy-bound student. Military historians will find this book's concepts of actual combat and service emotions captured eloquently in centuries of literature - no matter which historical period or army they are interested in reading. For me, the personal level, where Ms. Samet gives us a peek at her experiences and those of her cadets, kept me spellbound. I wanted more! Maybe another book?
Joe (Port Orange FL)
Well Written and Thoughtful.
I'm not sure what I expected when I started reading this book but was pleasantly surprised at what I found. This is not just a book about teaching poetry but about how the study of literature helps young military officers to become thoughtful, ethical and well rounded leaders. As a military retiree, I enjoyed reading about Doctor Samet's introduction to military life, her description of the military community and how she realized the she herself had become a member. I am certain that readers who are not familiar with the military will be quite surprised. This is a thoroughly enjoyable read.
Mary Ellen (Boynton Beach FL)
The Power of Literature
Since I have not had much exposure to military culture, this book gave me a new perspective on the impact of literature by illustrating how this field has had a longstanding tradition in the West Point curriculum. The author is a civilian instructor with impressive credentials who has been teaching English at West Point for 10 years.
She struggles with the issues surrounding the relevance of teaching an appreciation of literature at the academy, especially to young people who were likely to be deployed in a war zone after the start of the Iraq War. She makes a strong case for her subject area which gives her students the freedom to explore their own feelings. This is different from the other aspects of their West Point experience where they are expected to obey and where they face regimentation in all facets of their military training.
She also has some interesting thoughts about women in the military and her own role, which falls outside that of female cadet, officer or military spouse.
Emily (Portand OR)
Elizabeth Samet's account of her ten years of teaching literature to cadets at West Point is both pleasurable and informative. Her thought-provoking book provides the
reader with descriptions of this part of the cadets' education and gives fascinating glimpses of their reactions to the classics and the insights they gain as to what their life might hold for them.
Carol (Oceanside CA)
Soldier's Heart by Elizabeth Samet
For those unacquainted with the military life, the idea that our future military leaders are spending their time on poetry and the works of Homer, Shakespeare, Dickens, Hemingway and the like may seem absurd. One would expect technical subjects such as engineering and computer science or military tactics and combat arms practice to fill the minds of young men and women who are but a year or two away from leading troops in combat.
Surprisingly, Samet, a Yale graduate who has spent a decade teaching literature at the United Sates Military Academy, shows that it is the human condition at the heart of literature that resonates with these young minds. In this personal memoir, she describes teaching the poetry of World War I to young cadets most of whom face a future deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan. It is through the examination of this grim poetry that she shows the preciousness of life and the tragic consequences of rushing to one’s death in a fit of military fervor. These lessons are not meant to preach anti-war themes to those preparing for a military life but to help these future leaders to be reflective of the cost of war.
A lesson on Homer can show the effect of one person’s Hubris on an entire country. A Shakespeare sonnet can help a student clarify what relationship art has to life. Samet’s musings reflect not only on the personal but also on public policy, as she must find ways to re-evaluate concepts of valor, patriotism and heroism in a military that now integrates women into its corp. It is an accepted fact that literature can nurture life; it is wonderful that those whose very careers will most likely put them in positions that will test the mettle of their character are taking it to heart. This book is thoughtful and uplifting.
Sarah (Livermore CA)
An Intersection of Interests
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, since it combines two particular interests of mine: military culture and the love of books. Soldier's Heart is replete with accounts of the marriage of both themes, and Samet witnesses the birth of their children with eloquent prose and relevant tangents on the themes' frequent appearances and influences in American history. I can't imagine being in her shoes, but I'm happy that she is stimulating her students, through literature, to look through the vivid canvas of war to its psychological, emotional and artistic effects on their careers as Army officers. In my opinion, that is how a military officer's well-rounded education should be cultivated.