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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Webb's Timeless Classic, July 14, 2001
By 
Steve Iaco (northern new jersey) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A Country Such as This (Bluejacket Books) (Paperback)
"A Country Such As This" is a timeless classic that chronicles the enormous social, economic and political upheavals that roiled America throughout the 1960s and 1970s. James Webb, a foremost author, Vietnam combat veteran and future Secretary of the Navy, presents a moving and incisive allegory in the life experiences of three 1951 U.S. Naval Academy graduates. Red Lescynski, Judd Smith and Joe Dingenfelder are "blood brothers" who swear an oath of allegiance to their country and each other. But their lives are destined to be sundered by the epochal changes sweeping the country: economic dislocation, an epidemic of divorce and fractured families and, most of all, societal and political divisions wrought by U.S. policy in Vietnam. Particularly insightful is the ongoing dialogue between Smith, a conservative Republican, and the ultra-liberal Dorothy Dingenfelder (Joe's estranged wife), who clash repeatedly and vociferously. Red Lesczynski's brutal plight in North Vietnam POW camps are heart rending, as are his difficulties assimilating into a fundamentally changed American society after a seven-year absence. Webb's descriptions of the opprobrious conduct of the anti-war movement are priceless.
We are fortunate that 18 years after its initial publication, the U.S. Navy's publishing arm has re-published "A Country Such As This," enabling a new generation of Americans to benefit from Webb's sage wisdom.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When did America change...?, February 27, 2000
By 
This review is from: A Country Such As This (Hardcover)
Although this book is nearly 20 years old, its story, that of the transformation of America across the critical years of 1951 to 1976, is a must read for anyone of my generation (I was born in 1971) seeking to understand the recent history of our country beyond the cold facts of a textbook. It is a story of America upon which even modern documentaries hardly touch. Mr. Webb's narrative reminds us of our fathers' sacrifices. He reminds us that, despite the social climate of the volatile years of the Vietnam War in particular, there were men and women who were neither ashamed of their country nor unwilling to stand up for it. It is in that light that the greatest message of the book comes forth. He reminds us that, despite the aberrant behavior of the counter-culture and ranting and demonstrative noise of the anti-war demonstrators (both of which, in this presidential election year, will finally make their departure from the Washington), there were people who were willing to do what their country asked of them...because it was the right thing to do. Though fiction, ACSAT very much speaks to us from the reality that were the service families and proud Americans of the post-war generations. The story is gripping in itself, and the time it encompasses makes it a delight for any student of history to read.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant Epic Saga of the Turbulent Years of Our Century, May 4, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: A Country Such As This (Paperback)
One of the most brilliant epic sagas ever to come out in recent years by someone who lived through these turbulent years. I must say that it neatly lays out some of the key events within the period 1951-76 using authentic characters that come alive with each crisp dialogue, paragraph and page. Mr. Webb certainly has a knack for keen observation of life both ordinary and extraodinary, thereby, making the novel more believable.

On the day of graduation from the Naval Academy in 1951, the three midshipmen-turned-officers vow to become blood brothers to meet back in twenty five years at the very womb that had nurtured them for four years.

Judsonia Smith the mountaineer hopes some day to be the Commandant of the Marine Corps. This was not to be, for despite his heroism as a Marine in Korea, he would find himself "flounder[ing] in the Pit." After his resignation from the Marine Corps, and a stint with the FBI, and a series of flirtation with Death, he becomes a pastor after accepting Jesus. As he discovers his new callings, he is finally reunited with the vain ex-wife he so dearly loves. A man of courage and integrity, he not only supports the war effort in Vietnam, but also does what he can to bring back his POW blood brother, Commander "Red" Lesczynski.

Red Lesczinski is the creme de la creme of his profession. He is one of the best pilots the Navy has ever produced, having flown with the Blue Angels. Aside from his brilliant flying career in the Fleet, he is a "closet intellectual" who finds himself entranced by the Japanese Bushido. Through his Japanese friend, he discovers that the Japanese draw their strength from remembering their fallen warriors. Unfortunately, his brilliance was never given a chance to fully blossom. Commander Lesczynski is captured by the North Vietnamese, and is forced to endure the agonies of the grueling captivity for seven years. He returns home embittered; Lesczynski cannot help but to notice a fundamental flaw in the c! ountry he so dearly loves. The crippled Navy commander takes his blood brothers to a cave in Saipan--once the site of a fierce battle between the US Marines and the Japanese--to show them the true meaning of strength; the power of remembering.

Joe Dingenfelder is the brainy type among the three central characters. While his classmates take commission in either the "goddamned" Navy or the Marine Corps, he takes his commission in the Air Force. He sat out the Korean War in the comfort zone of his graduate school, and falls in love with the feisty Dorothy Edelson. She is to prove a deadly trap for him, forcing him to quit his promising career as a missile engineer for the Air Force. He grows disillusioned by her activism full of contradiction and hypocrisy. He separates from his newly-elected Congresswoman wife, and chooses to start a new life in Saipan.

And so Mr. Webb introduces his once-innocent protagonists to point out what he believes to be the fundamental flaw of his beloved country: its shunning of the very warriors that have sacrificed everything for their country. He does this, at times, by juxtaposing the Japanese warrior culture to that of America's through the lens of Lesczynski's enlightenment .

Though at times, his assessment is a bit far-fetched as he had exaggerated the importance of Bushido, it is nonetheless powerful. He is vindictive of his generation for their cowardice, and delivers a remorseless judgment on them for their actions. I found this piece resonating with Mr. Webb's patriotism.This brilliant novel will turn your emotions upside-down. Great job, Mr. Webb!!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Excellent Read From James Webb, May 31, 2006
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This review is from: A Country Such as This (Bluejacket Books) (Paperback)
This story chronicles the lives of three classmates from the U.S. Naval Academy who graduated in 1951. It takes the reader thru their careers and marriages. One character was a marine hero in Korea, went on to join the FBI and the was elected to congress. Another was a skilled pilot who was shot down on a mission in Vietnam and was a prisoner of war. The third, was an engineer and scientist involved in our early missile programs. He then left the military and worked as a civilian. It was painful to be reminded of Hanoi Jane Fonda and her ilk. They worked like a 5th Column for The Enemy. This is a valuable read just to remind us how bad those days really were.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Maybe more important now than when it was published, June 22, 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: A Country Such As This (Paperback)
Jim Webb is not the most elegant writer fiction has seen, but he has captured the points of view of the relatively dispossessed Viet Nam veterans in the time frame of 1968 or 1971. After Desert Storm it is getting harder each year to remember that many Americans blamed those who fought in Viet Nam for that war at least as much as they did the politicians that created it. It is too bad that this book is now so hard to find (I located my copy in Half Price Books (a used book store) in Houston) because it brings back into focus the experiences Viet Nam veterans went through--alienation from their own generation, pure physical danger while accorded virtually no hero status by those back in the U.S., POWs, etc. etc. For many of us (I was a Viet Nam veteran--but in no way a hero)who have felt a gnawing sense of "not being part of it" for over 20 years now based on the alienating experience of Viet Nam, Webb's point of view tells you that there is one guy who both knew the feeling and could capture it in print. Now that we have a professional military and no draft, regular citizens (and increasingly more of our politicians)demonstrate an escalating level of bravado in putting our troops in harm's way. One could not help but notice that Colin Powell was criticized for not wanting to commit forces until he was certain he could win. From the perspective of those who got left hanging out to dry in Viet Nam (the ones who either could not or would not manipulate the system to avoid service), the importance of Jim Webb's message is almost impossible to overstate. It is a book Bill Clinton would do well to read
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If this is not the great american novel, there isnt one., April 1, 1998
This review is from: A Country Such As This (Hardcover)
Mr Webb is one of the most courageous leaders in America. Past or present. I am utterly sick that this novel is out of print. I am lucky enough to have a hardbound copy that I loan to people of special ilk who can fathom the incredible, poignant events this cronicle portrays for our country. It is Mr Webb's brilliant achivement. It reaches tender places in the heart & soul where if you have just a little courage, you can stand up and let it fill you with resolve and astonishment. Or as Mr Webb would put it, you may hear the echo of boondockers slapping on the pavement or a marine calling to the lines hauling a dead friend thru a hailstorm of grenade & AK rounds. There are scenes in this novel that will make you throw the book on the floor & weep uncontrolably. But you will stop the tears, toe the mark and watch your cajones grow. Perhaps even listen, for the first time, to the true beating of your heart.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mini-Review of "A Country Such as This", December 18, 2007
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This review is from: A Country Such As This (Paperback)
Webb, the Junior Senator from the Commonwealth of Virginia, is a gifted writer of fiction and non-fiction. Because I so enjoyed reading "A Sense of Honor" and "Fields of Fire," I determined that I would eventually read all of his books. I have just finished "A Country Such As This," the action of which is set in the time of the Korean conflict and the Viet Nam War.

As is always the case with Webb's writing, his own experiences as a midshipman at Annapolis and as a Marine in Viet Nam strongly inform his world view and the characters he has created. In this case, the narrative revolves around three roommates from the Naval Academy whose careers veer off in dramatically different directions. Red becomes a pilot with the Navy's Blue Angels and eventually is taken as a prisoner of war in Viet Nam. Joe becomes a pioneer in the U.S. missile program. Judd, a Marine officer wounded in battle, serves in the FBI, where he is again shot. He eventually becomes a minister and then a Member of Congress. The evolving relationships among these three musketeers and the various women they love serves as a fascinating and satisfying platform that allows Webb to wax eloquent about the cost of war, of leadership, of freedom, and of deep relationships.

In this excerpt, he paints a vivid picture of the history of anti-war movements in the U.S.

He also sets the scene for why the anti-war movement emerged against our involvement in Viet Nam. The lessons seem particularly relevant to the current conflict in Iraq and the response by the American people to that protracted war. Joe's wife, Sophie, is talking to Judd during the time they are awaiting word about Red as a POW in Viet Nam:

" `It's just so vicious, Judd. And so wrong. How can they [the anti-war protesters] call themselves Americans?'

`We've always been this way. It's just gotten more out of hand this time, that's all. Lyndon Johnson tried to sneak a war past the American people, and whether it was a good war or not became irrelevant. Red understood that. He even wrote me about it before he was shot down. You don't fight a war when you haven't articulated what you're going to do, and expect people to go cheerfully off to bleed for years on end. And Nixon came in with the promise he was going to end it. Once he started pulling people out, that was it. The North Vietnamese have him cold, because the antiwar movement has taken away his negotiating leverage.'

He felt awkward making is speeches. He knew it wasn't what Sophie wanted to hear: `I know I'm not consoling you, much, but I've been trying to put this in perspective. Did you know there were antidraft riots in World War I? And did you know that the Selective Service Act only passed by one vote in World War II - in 1940, with Europe already overrun by the Nazis?'

They passed by ugly, despairing neighborhoods along New York Avenue. Judd Smith watched black faces staring at his car, and thought some more. `No, here's a better example for you, Sophie. Did you know that during the Civil War Lincoln had to deal with an antiwar movement? Imagine, the same people who created the abolition movement losing their stomach for the war. Robert E. Lee went north into Sharpsburg to try and defeat the Yankees on their own soil, so that the antiwar movement would force Lincoln to negotiate a settlement. There you have it in a nutshell. The idealists didn't want slavery, but they didn't have the stomach for the bloody part of it. They wanted the world to be rational and sane, even when their very cause was the essence of the war!'" (Pages 473-4)

Webb wrote this novel in 1983. In reflecting on the mood of America in the 50's and 60's in response to Korea and Viet Nam, he was presciently offering insights to help us to understand the mood of America in 2007 on the heels of years of conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Al
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely One of the Best Books I've Ever Read, July 31, 2008
By 
L. Charles Wimer III (Coatesville, PA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A Country Such as This (Bluejacket Books) (Paperback)
Seldom do I read books that are 534 pages in length. A Country Such As This captured me from page one to the very end. All the characters are superbly defined and easy to follow. It is as if you have a relationship with all of them. From the three main characters, to there wives and children -- all have a personality that the reader can easily relate to. Friendship, love, politics, drama and emotion are all here. One minute you are laughing and the next page you find yourself with chills. This really is a masterpiece. Make it 10 Stars and that would not do justice!!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Three worlds in one, October 28, 2012
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This review is from: A Country Such As This (Hardcover)
It's obvious the author did not just imagine the lives and locations written. They are real representations of real persons and places. I wish there had been Hollywood endings, but that wouldn't have been true life. I hope he writes a book about his single Senate term. Thanks Amazon for making this book so readily available.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Underappreciated American Epic, December 28, 2009
This review is from: A Country Such as This (Bluejacket Books) (Paperback)
This is quite likely Webb's best novel. It portrays America and the changes it underwent after World War II through the eyes of three men who come from the Naval Academy. The book show the good and the bad, focusing on the Vietnam War and how it divided the nation. A great historical novel, and a definite recommendation for anyone who enjoyed Webb's other books.
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A Country Such as This (Bluejacket Books)
A Country Such as This (Bluejacket Books) by James Webb (Paperback - January 15, 2013)
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