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

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
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Dec 05, 11

bookshelves: 2011, non-fiction, biography-or-memoir, history
Read from December 01 to 05, 2011

Fascinating and also difficult to read at times. Very intense. I was so emotionally involved that I had to skip ahead and find out what happened to Phil, and I cried when I did. What went on in the camps was horrifying and hard to read about, but it's important to do so. At the same time, it's important to embrace the spirit of forgiveness while still acknowledging how awful it really was. My grandmother tried to explain to me her fear and disgust in regards to the Japanese after WWII, and I can understand it better after reading this book (and others such as Iris Chang's Rape of Nanking). However, it's also important to try and understand that this behavior grew in part out of the culture itself: highly militaristic, with no respect for retreat or defeat or weakness. Having read the memoir of a kamikaze pilot it's obvious that the brutality displayed in the camps was also present even in the regular training of Japanese soldiers; as Hillenbrand suggests, some of the violence against POWs stemmed from the desire for low-ranking soldiers to lord it over the lower man on the totem pole. That said, I'm certainly not trying to excuse it or play it down. Many of the guards were pure sadists and psychopaths, sometimes chosen specifically for those qualities. Hillenbrand makes an effort to show that just like with anything else, there was a range of behavior, with moments of goodheartedness battling the brutality. The most important thing we can do is to look at the picture as a whole and try to understand all sides of it, in an effort to prevent this from happening again.
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