UNBROKEN by Laura Hillenbrand
“This self respect and sense of self-worth, the innermost armament of the soul, lies at the heart of humanness; to be deprived of it is to be dehumanized, to be cleaved from, and cast below, mankind. Men subjected to dehumanizing treatment experience profound wretchedness and loneliness and find that hope is almost impossible to retain.”
Review by Eleanor Bukowsky В (JAN 26, 2011)
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Lauren Hillenbrand, is the inspirational story of a courageous and resilient man, Louis Silvie Zamperini who, after flying a series of dangerous missions during World War II, spent over forty days stranded in the Pacific Ocean on a life raft with two of his buddies. They were scorched by the sun, buffeted by storms, and subsisted on a minuscule amount of food and water. Subsequently, Zamperini was captured and interned in a series of brutal Japanese POW camps where he was treated mercilessly by his sadistic captors. Miraculously, he emerged, battered and emaciated, but still alive. Little did he know that some of his biggest battles still lay ahead.
This work of non-fiction, told in five parts, is more than a biography. It is a depiction of an era when fighting took precedence over family, vocation, and education. The sacrifices made by “the greatest generation” were incalculable. Louie Zamperini, an enormously talented track star, had dreams of winning an Olympic medal. However, this son of Italian immigrants had to give up his promising future of athletic glory. Louis was drafted and became a bombardier in the air corps. He and his fellow airmen flew the B-24, known as the Flying Coffin because of its excessive weight, mechanical defects, and lack of maneuverability. The author provides shocking statistics about the number of fliers who died during training accidents because of faulty aircraft. “In 1943 in the Pacific Ocean Areas Theater…for every plane lost in combat, some six planes were lost in accidents.” A staggering “35,946 personnel died in non-battle situations, the vast majority of them in accidental crashes.”
Hillenbrand covers a great deal of territory. She places us in airplanes alongside the fighter pilots who are being attacked by the enemy; on the ocean with three marooned men who are starving, dehydrated, hallucinating, and on the verge of being devoured by hungry sharks; and in the prisoner of war camps, where a psychotic Japanese corporal, known as Bird, repeatedly unleashes his insane aggression on Louie. Bird, and others like him, beat, humiliate, and starve their American captives who are, according to international law, supposed to be treated humanely.
This book is a marvel of research. The author conducted countless interviews and consulted reams of documents, all of which she cites in her extensive endnotes. Some will find that the most harrowing part of the book is how close Louie came to self-destruction after the war was over. His experiences left him prone to nightmares, feelings of deep-seated rage, and alcoholism. Louie had to find a way to rebuild his shattered life.
Unbroken is not for everyone. Hillenbrand spends a great deal of time depicting grisly details about excruciating subjects. In addition, the book is a bit too long, and could have been edited with no loss of coherence. Still, anyone who is unfamiliar with the travails of those who left family and friends behind to serve in the Second World War will find this book both enlightening and wrenching. Unbroken is not just a disheartening depiction of man’s inhumanity to man. It is also a testament to the indomitable power of the human spirit to overcome even the most daunting challenges.
|AMAZON READER RATING:||from 623 readers|
|PUBLISHER:||Random House; 1st Edition (November 16, 2010)|
|AVAILABLE AS A KINDLE BOOK?||YES! Start Reading Now!|
|AUTHOR WEBSITE:||Wikipedia page on Laura Hillenbrand|
|EXTRAS:||Reading Guide and Excerpt|
|MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION:||Another war time biography:
Where Men Win Glory by Jon Krakauer
- Seabiscuit: An American Legend (2001)
- Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption (November 2010)