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

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
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Oct 25, 11

it was amazing
Read from October 15 to 25, 2011

Laura Hillenbrand spent seven years writing a comprehensive non-fiction narrative thick with well-sourced facts, anecdotes and grainy photos for delivery to a click-and-get world where thoughts can’t exceed 146 characters and effective communication is measured by how fast we get to the point.

What was she thinking?

Probably that the tale of Louie Zamperini was too compelling to rush, and that folks accustomed to fast, small and easy would be willing to lug a 459-page hardcover on buses and subways. She was right, and paid heartfelt tribute to Zamperini, the fabulously talented runner who shook hands with Hitler in the 1936 Olympics after finishing eighth in the 5,000 meter run. (And then stole a Nazi flag!)

Zamperini was supposed to be a candidate for gold in Tokyo in 1940, but war broke out and he wound up with quite a different experience in Japan. A CBS video broadcast during the 1998 Olympics tells the story, but don’t watch if you’re reading the book.

Instead, savor the way Hillenbrand lays out Zamperini’s saga in meticulous, textured chapters like, “Only the Laundry Knew How Scared I Was,” “Enslaved,” and, “Two Hundred and Twenty Punches.”

“From the moment he could walk,” she tells us early in Unbroken, “Louie couldn’t bear to be corralled.” Zamperini is also an optimist and a survivor. He is clever and crafty, the kind who bends without breaking. These traits reappear time and again throughout an incredible war time obstacle course that would have killed a lesser man. They are what enabled Zamperini to survive, and likely what fired Hillenbrand’s imagination.

You can, of course, watch the movie and learn the facts. I preferred the book, which you will miss once you’ve finished. When I got around to seeing Louie in the video, I felt like I already knew him. He is old now, his Olympics glory days hard to imagine. But thanks to Unbroken, the catch in his voice and glint in his eye as he told his tale were precisely as I expected, a good enough reason for me to give this one all five stars.

Learn more at: http://www.louiezamperini.com/
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message 1: by Deborah (new)

Deborah One of the finest reviews I've read on a book I was exceedingly unfamiliar with to this point. Thanks for the "good read" message, Steve!


Steve Piacente Thanks, Deborah. "Unbroken" is definitely worth the time. When a friend recently asked about bypassing the book and watching the movie instead, I said doing so would be like foregoing a relationship for a date.


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