Rummanah Aasi
  Like many libraries, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand has been extremely popular. The book has been checked out constantly, close to about 100 times the last time I checked my libraries stats. Though released in 2010, it has stayed on the New York Times Bestsellers list and has taken me three years to finally read the book.

Description: 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--Lt. Louis Zamperini. Captured by the Japanese and driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor.

Review: Hillenbrand shifts her focus from the usual Nazi Germany focus to the horrors of WWII Japan's most brutal POW camps. With a plot so ready made for the movies, you are left astounded that this actually took place and it happened to a real person. The core of the novel is Louie Zamperini, a loveable hero that exudes charm and wit, but also is a rough around the edges. He is  a disciplined champion racer who ran in the Berlin Olympics and his love for life is cruelly tested when he becomes an Army Air Corps bombardier in 1941.
   The young Italian-American from Torrance, Calif., was expected to be the first to run a four-minute mile. After an astonishing but losing race at the 1936 Olympics, Louie was hoping for gold in the 1940 games but the war ended those dreams forever. In May 1943 his B-24 crashed into the Pacific. After a record-breaking 47 days adrift on a shark-encircled life raft with his pal and pilot, Russell Allen "Phil" Phillips, they were captured by the Japanese. In the "theater of cruelty" that was the Japanese POW camp network, Louie landed in the cruelest theaters of all: Omori and Naoetsu, under the control of Corp. Mutsuhiro Watanabe, a sadist who never killed his victims, but got pleasure out of watching them slowly suffer. With his defiant and unbreakable spirit, Louie was Watanabe's perfect target.  After two incredibly grueling years and near death, Naoetsu was liberated in mid-August 1945 and Louie was freed.
  Hillenbrand doesn't just stop writing her story when Louie was rescued from the POW camp, but she also sheds light on the aftermath of war, particularly Louie's descent toward alcohol abuse and struggling with post-traumatic syndrome. For me, I was more interested in the second half of the book rather than the first. The first half started a bit slowly for me, but soon took off once the preparation for WW II began. I couldn't help but cringe and put the book down the torture in the POW camps became too much. The second half  digs a little deeper into Louie's psyche and troubles, reminding us that is just like any other fallible human being.
  Unbroken is unlike many WW II books that I've read in that it doesn't categorize its self as a history book, but crosses genres of survival literature and biography. It is a story of heroism, cruelty, life, death, joy, suffering, remorselessness, and redemption. It's a book that you don't want to miss.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language and graphic description of torture and abuse in prison war camps. Recommended for mature teens interested and adults interested in survival stories, World War II, and history.

If you like this book try: Devil at My Heels: A Heroic Olympian's Astonishing Story of Survival as a Japanese POW in World War II by Lost in Shangri-la by In Harm's Way: The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors by
4 Responses
  1. Annette Says:

    I listened to the audiobook, and since I was listening to small pieces at a time, I was able to endure the descriptions of the torture. But, you are right, you will probably have to set this one down a few times and take a break. I also thought the beginning was slow, but after I finished the book I appreciated the buildup. I think it made the characters very real.


  2. I remember when this book was everywhere and I very much wanted to read it, but I admit I am holding back because I hate to read those horrific torture scenes. It turns my stomach and it makes it worse that it really happened. Still I must check out this admirable man.


  3. Candace Says:

    I'm not sure if I could handle reading this one. This is one of those books I think I would actually prefer to watch on TV. But the subject matter does definitely interest me. I'm glad you enjoyed it!


  4. Funny, I was the opposite. I liked the first half more than the second half. I do like that she showed how hard things were afterwards and not just a happily ever after


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