February 14, 2005 at 05:00 AM EST
We gave it a B

Arvin’s thin World War II novel Articles of War tracks the experiences of Heck Tilson, a wholesome young GI from Iowa who arrives in France in 1944, ”lonely, nervous, bored.” Neither a hero nor an outright coward, the unexceptional, slightly dim Heck drifts through the war, by turns confused, horrified, and paralyzed with fear, never quite sure what’s going on. This is surely what it was like for many ordinary young Americans fighting the so-called Good War. But the absence of any larger statement about what Heck’s ordeals mean (or don’t mean) makes this book a haunting but somewhat flat read.

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