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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

Oh, gosh.  I never published this review!

Unbroken by  Laura Hillenbrand is the story of  Louie Zamperini, U.S. track and field star and a participant in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, who hoped to run in the 1940 Olympics.  The war, however, put an end to dreams of the 1940 Olympics, and eventually, Louie found himself a bombardier in the Army Air Corps.

In May, 1943, Louie was part of a mission searching for a missing plane when the engines failed, and his own plane went down in the Pacific Ocean.  Only three men survived the crash, and Louie and his two companions spent a record-breaking 47 days adrift, threatened by a lack of fresh water, a lack of food, and circled by sharks.  The story  of the survival of Louie and the pilot, "Phil" Philips (the third man did not survive) is remarkable enough, but not the end of this tale of courage and endurance.

Louie and Phil were captured by the Japanese.  The Japanese POW camps were notorious for the cruelty, and Louie and Phil were separated and sent to different camps.  From interviews with Louie, Phillips, and other Japanese prisoners, Hillenbrand is able to depict the hell in which these men found themselves.  The Japanese did not abide by the Geneva Conventions, and the camps were a place where minds, emotions, and bodies of many prisoners were broken beyond repair.

The perseverance, the tenacity of these men is inspiring.  The camps in which Louie was held were harrowing for their brutality and cruelty.

Even after surviving the camps, many men were unable to return to civilian life without great trauma.  Those who survived the Japanese camps had a much, much higher rate of suicide than those held in German camps.  On his return after the war, Louie tries to deal with his nightmares with alcohol.  Just when he is about to lose everything, he manages to pull himself out and redeem his life--once again.

Unbroken is a great read and a great testament to the endurance of the human spirit..

Nonfiction.  Biographical.  2010.  496 pages.


  1. I am waiting for this from the library. I am really looking forward to it!

  2. Kailana -- It was a fascinating look at an inspiring man. Hope you enjoy it!

  3. I bought a copy of this one a while back but I've been waiting for the right mood to hit me before I begin it. I've read a good bit about the Japanese POW camps, and always come away a bit depressed from the reading...but I keep coming back to it because it can be so inspirational. Thanks for the review.

  4. I don't read a lot of non-fiction but I did read this earlier this year and thought it was a really inspiring story.

  5. Sam - Hillenbrand handles the horror in a way that lets you know the seriousness, but without completely depressing you. Hmmm. Not sure that makes sense, but it is both personal and distanced.

    Marg - I don't read enough non-fiction, but usually enjoy it when I do. This one was both educational and inspiring.

  6. I've heard lots of good things about this book, so I really hope to read it at some point. I've linked to your review on War Through the Generations.

  7. Anna - A fascinating look at the way the human spirit endures through unbelievable trials.