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UnBroken-A World War II Story by Laura Hillenbrand, author of "Seabiscuit":My Book Review

Updated on July 3, 2014

Louis Zamperini at 94


Louis Zamperini has passed away

I was sad to hear this morning on the Today Show that Louis Zamperini passed away. He leaves behind a life filled with an incredible will to survive and live and a level of courage not often seen.

He was 97 years young.

On Christmas day of 2014 a movie, directed by Angelina Jolie, called "Unbroken", after the same titled book, will be released.

Rated by as the November, 2010 Best Book of the Month, "Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption" is an amazing novel about the life of Louie Zamperini and his almost too amazing to be believed true story. This is an adventure skillfully written by Laura Hillenbrand, author of SeaBiscuit. "Unbroken", as it is with a Hillenbrand book, is one you will never forget.  If you liked "Seabiscuit" you will love "Unbroken: A Word War II Story..." and if you have never read anything by Laura Hillenbrand, you owe it to yourself to check out this book. I promise you won't leave your is a definite page turner. This book will capture your interest from the first page.

A Tale of the Human Spirit

Hillenbrand spent seven years exploring and meticulously researching Louie's life. She used diaries, letters, spoke to his family, friends and both American and Japanese veterans to be able to relate the entire story of this man's fight for survival, his refusal to be "broken" and his ability to maintain his dignity in spite of the experiences during the war.

This tale will capture your interest from the first page and keep it for the remaining 500 pages. You will feel the spirit of Louie Zamperini, his sheer tenacity and determination against all odds. There are times you may put the book down, the horrors of what he endured coming to life. You will laugh, maybe cry, but you will come away with a new found admiration for one man's ability to remain "unbroken".

Although Laura Hillenbrand is known for "Seabiscuit", I think she will soon be hearing accolades about "Unbroken" also as this is one of the best books to read.

Louie Zamperini's story

Raised in California, Louie was a "bad boy"; he was a delinquent with alot of enery, getting into brawls, teasing the police, and often stealing food and escaping by running very fast. His brother urged him to join the track team, to channel his energy and speed into something positive. After becoming the fastest runner in high school history, Louie participated in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, gaining the attention of Hitler who shook his hand.

While Louie was preparing for the 1940 Olympics, World War II began and he joined, becoming a Army Air Corps Bombardier. During the war his plane was shot down over the ocean-he survived; during a rescue mission his plane's engines failed, leaving Louie and his crew floating adrift in the Pacific Ocean for over a month. On that small raft, in the blazing sun, with a few cans of water and continued hunger satisfied by catching fish, birds and even a shark-killing it with pliers-they survived for 47 days.

After surviving the open seas, Louie and the crew were "rescued" but by the Japanese and thrown into prisoner of war camps. Day after day Louie in particular was beaten by a Japanese corporal named Mutsuhiro Watanabe, a.k.a. "the Bird". In Watanabe's eyes Louie was everything he wasn't, an Olympic hero, an officer in the Armed Forces and ferociously defiant. He resented him and singled out Louie to "break" him down. But Louie survived, getting up and coming back every day, holding on to his own hope for survival and his life back home. And survive he and others did, through their determination to keep their dignity and refusal to let the Japanese destroy them.

Louie went back home, the battle for life over, only to wage a new battle with himself.  Haunted, his dreams filled with "the Bird", he relived those days but he determined to get past it. He married and with the help of his wife was able to put to rest those days as a POW. In 1998 he went full circle, returning to the Nagano Winter Olympic Games carrying the torch. He is still alive today, in his 90's.

Hillenbrand's style

Laura Hillenbrand is a wonderful author. I read Seabiscuit and through Hillenbrand's words and descriptions I was taken back into the world of an amazing horse and 1930's horse-racing.Her style of writing non-fiction keeps the reader's interest by bringing to life the subject and relating the facts of that life with dramatic descriptions. Because of her detailed research, she is able to make the reader feel as though they can see and feel everything that is happening; her true life stories aren't just related with facts and dates.

Laura Hillenbrand has written two great big books about exceptional athletes and inspiring survivors that the world somehow managed to forget for a while. The first was Seabiscuit, the tale of the Depression-era racehorse who surpassed all expectations with pride and a huge heart. The second was "Unbroken".

Interestingly enough, her research during the writing of her book "Seabiscuit" is what brought about her interest in Louie Zamperini. During her research of the Depression era she kept coming across stories about the 1930's track star Louie Zamperini who survived against all odds during World War II. After finishing "Seabiscuit" Louie was still on her mind and she decided she wanted to write about Louie so she tracked him down to ask him about his life. During their first meeting she was hooked and wanted to write a book about him.


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    • MimiKat33 profile image

      MimiKat33 6 years ago from Northeastern NY State, USA

      Thank you for your comment. I hope you enjoy reading this book as well.

    • esatchel profile image

      PDGreenwell 6 years ago from Kentucky

      Great book review!