Jay Connor's Reviews > Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
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's review
Dec 30, 2010

it was amazing
Read in December, 2010

A good friend, Lucy Murphy, recommended this book. And I'm so glad she did. Carol and I listened to it on our road trip from Chicago to Tallahassee a couple of days after Christmas.

While I thought I was pretty knowledgeable about World War II and, especially, since my story-telling father-in-law had served in the Pacific, I found it fascinating that I had such limited understanding of the cruelty and dehumanizing treatment the Japanese inflicted on their prisoners of war. Even having recently read Hampton Sides gripping "Ghost Soldiers" about the Battaan Death March, I imagine my mental transponder was too influenced at an early age by the prisoner-as-victor ethos of "Bridge over the River Kwai" to fully comprehend the evil of Japanese prison camp. Also, tribute must go to Laura Hillenbrand who so powerfully makes you take note. At one point the Japanese are said to justify some of the dehumanization because the captives were "enemy combatants" and not true prisoners of war and therefore were not subject to the protective restrictions of the Geneva Convention. Too chillingly close to our own nail-splitting in the War on Terror.

Much as in her supremely successful "Seabiscuit," Hillenbrand has a compelling protagonist at the center of her story. With a name straight out of the Marx Brothers, Louis Zamperini is as complex a character as any novelist could conjure. Louis is Job. After a delinquent youth, Zamperini turned himself into an Olympic runner -- "Who would have probably shattered the 4 minute mile well before Banister" -- only to suffer a series of spirit-crushing trials after being conscripted into the Army Air Corps and sent off as a bombardier to the war in the Pacific: from plane crash to an 1800 mile shark infested castaway odyssey to multiple internments with sadistic guards.

The subtitle - A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption - actually under serves the arc of this transcendent story. It fails to highlight the personal depths to which Louis fell while battling his trauma post-war before his epiphany of mind, body and spirit at a Billy Graham Revival.

A note to those who choose the audio book: Edward Herrmann is the superb narrator.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Nancy I also was amazed at how little I knew about the cruel and dehumanizing treatment of the POWS. Excellent read

Karen I agree with you. Edward Herrmann is a fabulous reader. This book was amazing!

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