Friday, November 22, 2013

Review: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Title: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
Author: Laura Hillenbrand
Format: Audiobook
Publisher: Random House
Publish Date: November 16, 2010
Source: Library

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a non-fiction fan.
  • You enjoy true hero stories.
What's the Story?:

From "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.

In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit.  Telling an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit."

My Two Cents:

"Unbroken" is the story of Louie Zamperini, who is at various times in his life an Olympic runner, a warrior, and a prisoner of war in Japan during World War II. It's amazing that one man could have been through so many different things and still be alive to tell about it. It's a story of bravery and resilience. It's an absolutely amazing story that showcases one of the most fascinating lives that I've read about in a very long time. This book reads like a movie! If you're looking for a book that will have you reading with your mouth open in disbelief, this book is for you.

It is so hard to believe that one person really could have gone through so much. "Unbroken" starts when Louie was young. He was a troublemaker with a natural talent for running and trained so hard that he was able to make it to the Olympics. Then World War II happens and he is swept up into the war. I loved following Louie's adventure so much. This is one of those books where you just get totally drawn into the story.

Hillenbrand does a fantastic job of bringing Louie's story to life. Drawing on letters and journals, there is a lot of good detail about Louie and many of the other people who appear in this book. Hillenbrand pulls it all together and turns the book into something really special. I definitely would love to read more by Hillenbrand in the future.

I listened to this book on audiobook, which was a fantastic choice if I do say so myself. I love listening to audiobooks that are totally engaging. I really wanted to keep listening to more and more just because the whole story is so amazing. The narrator was really good!



  1. Sounds like Hillenbrand has written another winner!

  2. I read this book, too, and I certainly gave it more than 4-1/2 points. Here's what I thought of it.

    UNBROKEN by Laura Hillenbrand (author of SEABISCUIT) is nonfiction. I’m afraid many readers will miss this book for that reason. They think nonfiction is dull. But I promise, UNBROKEN is not dull. It’s a can’t-put-it-down book that will keep you up at night.

    Louie Zamperini was a track star in the 1930s. He was good enough to go to the 1936 Olympics in Germany, and all expected, with more experience, he would be a medalist in the next Olympic games. Instead, World War II interfered, and Louie was drafted into the Army Air Corps.

    Then Hillenbrand relates his life as a wartime flier. But Louie’s experiences, even compared with other fliers who saw combat, weren’t typical. Although “war is hell” is true for everyone involved, Louie’s hell was progressively worse. Just when I thought, this is more than a person can take, it got even more hideous.

    Somehow, in part because Louie was so physically fit, he kept going. But he wouldn’t have if not for amazing mental strength as well.

    If you expect a summary of what happens, I’m sorry. It would be unfair to you. I found the book un-put-downable just because I wasn’t familiar with Louie’s story. I would be doing you a disservice by summarizing the book’s various parts.

    Do yourself a favor: don’t read the book flap or other reviews, either, until you’ve read the book yourself.

    I can tell you this. UNBROKEN begins with a prologue. Louie and two other men are floating on a rubber raft in the ocean. They’re starving to death and weak when a jet flies low over them. Louie thinks it is American, and they are about to be saved. But it’s not. What happens on that ocean is really bad. But after the prologue and after the story begins with Louie’s early life to his experiences as a runner to the Olympics to the military, it then keeps getting worse.

    Even so, I didn’t think this was a depressing book. I’ll admit, sometimes it was hard to read, and, if you’re like me, you may get so caught up in the story you’ll even get a headache at times. I wanted to keep reading because, even though bad kept happening, Louie kept overcoming.

    Hillenbrand continues the story after Louie’s military service, and we see his (and others who were with him) ability and inability to cope. We see lives forever changed, often disastrously.

    And we also see . . . . Well, I can’t continue without giving away what you should read and not anticipate because of something I said. But hint: I learned some unpleasant facts about Japanese civilians during World War II and after, even to present day.

    Although I read slowly, I read a lot. I usually find one, maybe two, books a year that are so wonderful I can’t speak highly enough of them. This is one of those books.

  3. I read this for my book group and really enjoyed it. Hillenbrand is quite a writer.

  4. This sounds like a real winner. I can't believe I've had this book for a year now and haven't read it yet. I must remedy that. ;)

  5. I'm glad you liked the book! It is one I recommend to everyone. I think it should be required reading. I know it made me want to hug a veteran and say 'Thank You!'


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