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Unbroken Is Unreal Account of Louis Zamperini’s Life

Laura Hillenbrand
Random House (November 2010)

There have been many stories, articles, books, movies and TV shows done depicting World War II. Some people have seen enough. There isn’t much more everyone can learn about World War II, right?

Well, partially right. There isn’t much more to learn, but there are still great and compelling stories to be told. One of which is Louis Zamperini’s story, a story Laura Hillenbrand, author of Seabiscuit, tells in her newest book, Unbroken.

Unbroken is a biography of sorts. Hillenbrand walks the reader through Zamperini’s story from beginning to present. Zamperini becomes such a dear character to the reader. His friends become their friends. They share in his family’s happiness and sorrows. But more than a walk through his life, Unbroken touches on larger issues throughout the war.

The book starts off with our beloved character lost at sea. The reader assumes from this point they will flash back to his childhood, work their way through his life and the story will climax at this point. But when the reader gets just a third of the way through the book, they realize it is just the beginning.

What Zamperini goes through is hardly believable, but was the case for many soldiers in WWII. It is amazing some of the soldiers survived. As detailed as Hillenbrand is in her account, obviously making an immense effort to get even the smallest details and to make sure they are accurate, there is still some things left unanswered; though not so much that the book feels unfulfilling.

She uses examples of events in Zamperini’s story as an example of how life was like in the war and the changes that were made to prevent the same tragedies from happening. With all Zamperini experiences during his time in the war, there is little emphasis placed on his inability to pursue his dream of running in the Olympics post-war.

Prior to the war, Zamperini’s running career was the center of his universe. It was his motivating factor in life and post-war, it was much different.

Hillenbrand balances the hardships the soldiers confronted with the savvy they showed in the face of it. As much as she depicts the brutality the Japanese showed them in POW camps, she tells of their rigs they made to steal food, the tactics they used to get a newspaper, which was then used to not only keep up with what was going on in the war, but also to figure out Japanese words and territories.

Unbroken is so intense and captivating in its breadth and depth, the reader can’t put it down. Hillenbrand includes so many details it feels as if the reader is there, and she includes historical facts to put the events into perspective.

There is a small bit of American bias in the book, but definitely not so much that it’s overpowering. The nature of the story warrants itself to a bit of animosity toward the Japanese, but there is some attempt to tell both sides of the story.

Zamperini’s is a story of struggle, a story of anger, revenge and redemption, a story of forgiveness, hardship, faith and trust. It is a must-read book for 2011.


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