Book Review: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

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Book Review - Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Title: UnbrokenBook Review - Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Author: Laura Hillenbrand

Publisher: Random House

Genre: Historical Non-Fiction, Biography, World War II

First Publication: 2010

Major Characters: Louie Zamperini, Russell Allen Phillips, Pete Zamperini, Stanley Pillsbury, Harry Brooks, Payton Jordan, Anthony Zamperini, Louise Zamperini, Francis McNamara (Mac), William Harris, Fred Garrett, Frank Tinker, Thorbjørn Christiansen, Sylvia Zamperini Flammer, Virginia Zamperini

Theme: Survival and Resilience, Dignity, Redemption and Forgiveness, War and Identity, Belief and Faith

Setting: The United States and Japan; before, during, and after World War II

Narrator: Limited third-person

 

Book Summary: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

 

Book Review: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Louis Zamperini went through that terrible ordeal and much, much more during his time as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy during WWII. His traumatic experiences are chronicled in the nonfiction book Unbroken, written by Laura Hillenbrand with information she collected by interviewing Louie Zamperini.

In the early 1940s, the US was plunged into WWII and Zamperini was drafted into the Air Force as a bombardier and stationed in Hawaii. While on a patrol mission after being in Hawaii for a year, his plane went down and he, along with two others survived. Soon after Louie and his best friend Phil Allen hit land, they were captured by Japan and forced into gruelling prisoner of war camps.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand set during WWII in the South Pacific and Japanese prison camps follows Louie’s struggles through the POW camps. This book is one of the best non-fiction books about WWII ever written because it puts you in the POW camps with Louie and his comrades. It has all the suspense and excitement of a novel, and finally because of the story is the ultimate tale of survival and hope. The details included in this story transport you to the horrific POW camps in Japan.

“The paradox of vengefulness is that it makes men dependent upon those who have harmed them, believing that their release from pain will come only when their tormentors suffer.”

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand is, without a doubt, one of the most impacting and impressive books about survival during a war that I have ever read. Imagine being stranded in the ocean in a raft with no food, water, supplies or protection from the elements, surrounded by sharks and away from anything familiar. This was endured by Louis and the two other survivors of the Green Hornet crash and that was only the beginning of their ordeal.

When their raft drifted by a Japanese-held island, the survivors were taken as prisoners of war (POW). What followed was a physical and mental torture that no one should ever have to endure. As Louis was transferred from POW camp to POW camp, his suffering gradually increased as the allies closed in on the Japanese. Louis was particularly targeted because of his past as an Olympic runner. The Japanese were ruthless forcing the POW’s into submission by any means necessary. Louis’ childhood and daring spirit, however, carried him through. This is not mere a story of survival, its a story of redemption and forgiveness.

Hillenbrand has produced a masterful book about a man with an extraordinary journey and a defiant spirit. Louis’ journey almost sounds fictitious as everything he had to go through is too much for one human to bear but this story is entirely true. The prose is written with finesse, facts are presented along with narrative that has a heart and soul. This is a book that took me longer to read and not just because of the length. This is a narrative that I wanted to truly appreciate. Engrossing, powerful, inspiring, poignant, Painful and angering in many spots but ultimately a triumphant journey.

“Dignity is as essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen. The stubborn retention of it, even in the face of extreme physical hardship, can hold a man’s soul in his body long past the point at which the body should have surrendered it.”

Louis Zamperini is indeed one incredible person. Having survived at sea adrift for 47 days and two thousand miles, he ended up on the Japanese’s front door. I do not think the words for what Louis (and other POW’s) went through exist. The Japanese killed thousands of prisoners of war through massacre, human experimentation, starvation & dehydration and forced labor. What was worse though was the mental torture.

Louis was a great runner and a competent airmen but that is not what stands out to me about him. What stands out is his ability to genuinely forgive his aggressors. This was Louis’s greatest battle but the one whose outcome made him even stronger because forgiveness lead to the freedom his soul was yearning. When Louis returned home, he was a broken man and his journey from the abyss was one that tested him to the core. He came out of that abyss after reigniting his faith in God.

“When he thought of his history, what resonated with him now was not all that he had suffered but the divine love that he believed had intervened to save him.”

Unbroken is an amazing WWII book because of the story of hope, survival, and the human will to live no matter what is thrown your way. Louie never gave up hope when he and two other comrades of his were afloat on a raft in the South Pacific Ocean. They knew the situation was dire, but they had hope and so they survived. When Louie was placed in a POW camp by the Japanese army after they were captured from an island, Louie knew how terrible these camps were, but he wanted to live. Not only that, he knew that he must live, because he had a family and friends that were counting on him to come back alive. I was really amazed at this story, and how incredible and inspiring it was. These recurring points in the book inspire you, amaze you, and make for an awe-inspiring book.


 

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