Saturday, November 22, 2014

Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand

  • Release Date: November 16th, 2010
  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • Pages: 473
  • Publisher: Random House

Recently at work, I had to work on a project that involved repetitive data entry. There were times where that, mixed with the usual quiet of Friday was killing me and I needed something to listen to. I went into my library's Overdrive and downloaded the first nonfiction audiobook under most popular. The book was  Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand, which tells the story of Louis Zamperini. I'd heard the name Louis Zamperini mentioned on a podcast I like, so I figured it must be good. What I thought would be just something to listen to for a couple hours turned into one of those audiobooks I cleaned my apartment just to finish.

This book chronicles is the life of Louis Zamperini, a celebrated  Olympic athlete, who was drafted into the US Air Force as a bomber during World War II. During a routine flight to Australia,  he plane crashes and he and two of his crewmates are stranded  in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on a 7 foot raft for 47 days, only to become POWs in a camp with some of Japan's most notorious war criminals.

No event in the 20th century has inspired American culture and media more than World War II. It’s a
constant source for stories of survival, brotherhood and victory. It’s remembered as time when America threw its weight into a war and won. WWII narratives have spawned novels, memoirs plays, movies, video games and not one but two HBO miniseries. None have ever peaked my interest as much as the story behind Unbroken.

Zamperini ran for USC in the 1930's

One of the interesting experiences I had with this book is that even though I knew Zamperini was still alive when this book came out, I was so nervous he wasn't going to make it through all of the trials. I found myself looking up dates so I would know when he would get out of certain situations. It also doesn't help that there isn't a lot about his crewmates, so I had to go Googling for their fates before I could finish reading.

Needless to say this has to be one of the most brutal reads I've ever read. And it's not all from horrible treatment of the Americans at the POW camps and descriptions of their days lost at sea. When Louis is stationed in Hawaii he witnesses a lot of his fellow Airmen go out on missions and just never come back. The Air Force was making these planes so fast and really had no idea what they were doing and they would crash all the time. And this is the Pacific Ocean, so there are a lot of sharks.

I learned a lot about World War II from Unbroken. I feel like in school we learn a lot about the European side of the war and less about what was going on in the Pacific. I would be interested in reading more. (I started Hiroshima by John Hersey) This is an American  book so it may have its own biases. Hillenbrand not only tells Zamperini's story, but gives the entire context of the war so you begin to understand things like why exactly they dropped the atomic bomb.

 Zamperini and Jolie who is directing the film version
The narrator, Edward Herrmann was great, he kind of sounded like someone on the History Channel which worked for this book. Also, in the POW camp there are prisoners from different countries and he does the accents really well. I think Unbroken works especially well on audio because then you can hear all the Japanese pronunciations.

This book really had everything; reality,  inspiration, romance and even humor which I always appreciate. Some of the shenanigans and pranks Zamperini and his crew members get into when they are stationed in Hawaii are hilarious. Hillenbrand weaves everything to create a fully formed and honest narrative, I can see why this book has  been a New York Times Bestseller for four years !

I think this book might get a little more of a media boost with Angelina Jolie directing the film which is set  coming out this holiday season. I feel like this movie is going to be so good (Oscar ??), so I'm totally going to see it in theaters.  I feel weird saying this about a true story, but this trailer gave me the feels. Watch it !

I see there is a YA version of this book...I'm curious how this differs from the original.


  1. I haven't read a nonfiction in a long time, but I've developed such a taste for WWI and WWII books lately. In fact, I seek them out. I think having that portent knowledge of what's to come will help be get through this one - only mildly though, since this is real life as oppose to fiction.

    Great review! I'm inclined to read this one, thanks to you. :)

  2. This book reads a little bit like fiction because it has an omniscient third person narrator, so I highly suggest it.


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