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

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
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's review
Oct 04, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: memoir-biography
Recommended to Annalisa by: Traci Gosman

Hillenbrand has broken the unwritten code for Americans to downplay the wrongs of the Japanese during World War II (other than Pearl Harbor) in favor of focusing on the egregious acts of the Nazis. My education in World War II history has focused on the Holocaust and the unforgivable damage we did to Japan by unleashing the atomic bomb. I appreciate all the research Hillenbrand did to bring us the other side of the story.

Louis Zamperini is my new hero. I loved his charisma and endurance, both of which shined through in Hillenbrand's meticulous writing. I haven't been this invested in non-fiction in a long time. Even when she was talking about airplane design I was enthralled. And even though I figured Zamperini had to have survived his ordeal to give Hillenbrand an interview, I was still anxious about his survival. My favorite part of Louis' story is (view spoiler). How inspiring and moving, his whole story, but especially his life after the war.

I don't think I can pick up another book for a few days. I need to let this one settle before I delve into fiction that will feel meaningless after this.
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Reading Progress

October 4, 2011 – Shelved
November 4, 2011 – Started Reading
November 12, 2011 – Finished Reading
June 27, 2013 – Shelved as: memoir-biography

Comments (showing 1-32 of 32) (32 new)

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message 1: by Ann (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann Well said. Louis was scheduled to be on Letterman a few weeks ago so I set my DVR to catch it, but his appearance was cancelled at the last minute. I was disappointed to miss the chance to hear him speak. Hopefully he's okay.

Suzanne Great review

Jessica I felt the same way about WW2 historical accounts. So much focus on the Nazis and the horrors they caused, yet nearly overlooking the Japanese atrocities. War, unfortunately, brings out the best and worst in all cultures, but I am glad to have learned more about WW2 that I was previously ignorant of.

Annalisa Ann,
I hope he's okay too. I'd love to hear him talk in person.

It made me feel ignorant how little I knew about Japan.

Christine well said.. I feel the same way.. It's like I am still swallowing it all. I do wonder if Billy Graham knows the part he played .. he must..

Annalisa I hope so. It's always nice to hear how you've influenced someone's life for the better.

Wanda Uh. I think that you are sorely misinformed. There are many great books about the atrocities committed by the Japanese in WW II - from accounts of the Bataan Death March to the Rape of Nanking. Lots and lots of them.

Marie I agree. All of the attention was focused on the Holocaust but the Japanese were just as bad on a smaller scale. Great book.

Catherine Great review. While there may be other books that tell about the horrors of the POWs held by the Japanese, this is the first I've read.

Wanda Not the issue. The issue. The issue is that the author of the review misrepresents the fact that there is a code of silence regarding Japanese atrocities, even though this is the first you read about them. In fact there are tons of things out there about Japan and their reprehensible behavior in WW II>

message 11: by Annalisa (last edited Aug 06, 2012 10:51AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Annalisa Wanda,
You could have come on MY review and started an intelligent discussion about why my impression from my education/conversations/readings/life lead to that belief, but instead you insulted me with a condescending, snippety tone uninterested in a mature conversation exchanging ideas and perceptions about Americans view of WWII and Japan.

Wanda You were homeschooled would be my guess.

Annalisa Private school, but what does that have to do with your inability to accept the fact that someone enjoyed a book you didn't?

message 14: by Jill (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jill Wanda,
While their may be many books on the horrors of the Japanese POW camps, I would dare to say that there are many, many more on what happened in Germany during WWII. You could have made your point in a more polite manner. It doesn't take any more effort to be kind than to be rude. It is also not possible to access or read every book written about the subject. I don't understand why you think you need to insult Annalisa.

message 15: by Annalisa (last edited Aug 07, 2012 07:00PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Annalisa Thanks for sticking up for me, Jill. I've blocked her so she can't see any of our comments anymore (unless she logged out of goodreads). At least, that's how I think blocking works.

And I still stand by my statement that the US doesn't like to talk about how bad Japan was during WWII in favor of focusing on Germany and/or our own atrocities toward the Japanese. I never said there wasn't information about it out there. I said we as Americans like to focus on Germany, or if we do talk about Japan, we talk about how we mistreated them too.

Catherine Annalisa,
You are welcome. My sister had logged in to update her goodreads account, and I made that comment to Wanda under Jill's account without realizing it. I think Wanda needs to read up on Socratic Seminar discussion before she makes anymore comments.

message 17: by Annalisa (last edited Aug 01, 2012 05:05AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Annalisa Haha. I was wondering who commented and how they knew about my review. She's a professor so I'm sure she knows all about it. From reading some of her other reviews and her comment here, I'm also sure that she's the type of professor who belittles any of her students who dares disagree with her.

Catherine That is so sad for her students. I teach eighth and ninth grade, and I have zero tolerance for rudeness. There is no need for it in an academic discussion, and I consider discussions on goodreads academic. Sorry she high jacked your discussion.

message 19: by Annalisa (last edited Aug 01, 2012 07:37AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Annalisa As long as I've been here (5 years), it's the first time it's happened.(Not someone being rude, but someone hijacking my review.) It's upsetting, but at least it doesn't happen all the time. I'm going to PM you because my husband is a teacher too.

message 20: by Ann (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann Facebook & Twitter, maybe but trying to pick a fight on Goodreads?! I thought this would be a more civilized bunch. Guess not. No place for that kind of rudeness.

Annalisa One would hope the discourse on goodreads would be a little more elevated, but unfortunately it's not always the case. I've seen A LOT of drama on goodreads this year and it makes me sad :(.

Annalisa So, I just realized Wanda commented on my review back in March. Never saw that notification, nor did I see it when I blocked her. Maybe she thought I'd abandoned my review and/or was frustrated I didn't respond? So, maybe I should say thanks for the recommended reading? I don't know. Maybe I overreacted, but it's so hard to tell someone's intention online.

message 23: by Ashley (last edited Sep 06, 2012 12:45PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ashley To answer Christine's question, I believe Billy Graham knows the part he played. Louie did a book signing at the Billy Graham Library last year. :) Billy Graham himself didn't make it down the mountain to be there that day (he's 93 yrs old now), but he did send Louie a note.

And Annalisa, your comment about the "unwritten code" brought up an important point that was tugging at the back of my mind as I read this book (especially as I took in the parts about Nanking ... the 5,000 Korean POWs ... the ritualistic cannibalism of alive victims by Japanese soldiers, which Hillenbrand mentions only in passing). Good review.

Annalisa Thanks, Ashley. That makes me happy to know Billy Graham knows. It's always nice to know when you've affected someone's life for the better.

Carolyn Beck Your review says exactly what I was thinking when I read the book! I asked the question of everyone around me. Why was I flooded with information about the Nazis actions during WW II, the Japanese internment camps in the US where we treated Japanese-Americans "horribly," the atrocity we committed by dropping the bombs, and a little about Pearl Harbor... But I never heard about the atrocities committed by the apparently insane Japanese until I visited the WW II museum in New Orleans in 2011. I never heard what the alternative to dropping the bombs would have been until I was in the museum. And I certainly had no idea there were stories like this out there! This story blew me away! It was hard to read at times, and when the US got word the war was over, I was elated for hours, like it just happened. That's some good writing.

There may be lots of books about the subject out there, but it was never discussed in school. I went to a good public school by the way. (That reviewer accusing you of being home schooled seemed to take your review personally for some reason.) I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but it does make me wonder what else in history is never openly discussed? And when did this country decide to discuss only what the US and Germany did wrong, but not the Japanese? And why? And how did that generation of Americans ever manage to forgive the Japanese? How did our countries ever become allies when there should have been so much animosity? How did their culture change after the war, or did it? So many questions left lingering in my mind after finishing the book.

Annalisa Carolyn,
Thanks for your comment. I think it's a case of the winner rarely wins. It's always been my impression that it was out of US guilt that we forgave the Japanese and it is that guilt we carry on, not the reason for our actions. That is what we teach the next generation. I think Wanda thought I was saying there was some conspiracy to cover it up and the information hidden, when that's not what I meant at all. Only, that we've forgiven the Japanese so we don't speak ill of our friends. History is always rewritten, or at least tainted, by the mindset of the present. We're losing the first-hand accounts of the world wars and it makes we wonder what future generations will learn of it.

message 27: by John (new) - rated it 5 stars

John Ferry Very right. My father was an 18 year old flying as a radio operator in a B-29 and didn't say much about the war until he was close to death. His stories were enthralling and scary at the same time. He had heard of how the pow's were being treated and lived in fear of being shot down and captured. This book gives people exactly what you said. A look at the reality of the Japanese atrocities instead of the Germans, for a change. Good review and Wanda is wrong for being a total snatch. I'm sure you were not home schooled and she should be banned for her I'll mannered words. I'm sure she sleeps alone:)

Annalisa Haha. I blocked her so she can't comment anymore. I don't get why people think it's okay to be rude, even if it isn't face to face. Honestly, I don't like coming on goodreads anymore for that very reason. When I get a comment, I cringe, unsure if it's going to be rude and often I don't even look if I worry it might be.

But back to the subject, it would be interesting to hear firsthand accounts and it saddens me that there aren't many remaining. They were called the greatest generation for a reason. I have a tremendous amount of respect for soldiers, but I'm especially fascinated by those who served in WWII.

message 29: by Dave (last edited Jan 06, 2013 07:09AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dave I agree with you Annalisa, Louis Zamperini is my new hero. Similar to John, my father fought in the Pacific during WWII and didn't speak of the war. What I did pick up though was enough to realize that there were many atrocities committed. Another book that demonstrates this is Flags of Our Fathers. There are a number of videos on You Tube of Louis being interviewed. Interestingly, nine minutes into the one here he calls his generation the "hearty generation" and doesn't like the term "greatest generation".

Julie Even if Wanda is correct, which I'm sure she is, I 100% concur with you, Annalisa, in that this book brings the war in the Pacific alive in a whole new way to a whole new generation of readers. I also have limited my WWII readings to the European front, and narrowed that down to concentration camp themed books. This book was like a tsunami of "Where the He!! have I been all my life??" and now I'm on a reading marathon on the subject of the Pacific war.

Many years ago as a brand new nurse in the Navy, I took care of many Marines nearing the end of their lives. They all looked the same- old men battling whatever illness trying to take their lives- and I went about my business doing my nursing duties and not paying much attention to the person in the bed. One night I was trying to politely not listen to *another* old man ramble on.... until he mentioned he was on Iwo Jima and Guadacanal. Iwo Jima??? That place where the corpsman helped raise the flag? I've been to the Iwo Jima memorial in Arlington..... bad place, Iwo Jima.

So I stopped my nursing busy work and listened. Horrified, amazed, touched, saddened.... I vowed to myself I would educate myself on the those islands and atolls and what those Marines went through. I didn't. I watched a few movies, but 15 years later, I'm finally learning. Not reading... LEARNING.

After deployment to Iraq, I became interested in PTSD and how each person is affected by war in unique and personal ways. Now that I'm about to head to Afghanistan, I have a whole new perspective on PTSD and surviving the soul crushing effects of war.

I thoroughly enjoyed your review and I'm sorry Wanda chose to be so rude, but hey, it certainly led to an interesting discussion!

Annalisa Thanks, Julie. Wanda absolutely is right. I know there is literature out there on the subject, but that wasn't my point and she misunderstood me. I'm glad the book has encouraged your thirst for knowledge. I love it when that happens. God bless you for serving in the military. I have a tremendous amount of respect for those who chose to serve their country.

message 32: by Erin (new) - rated it 3 stars

Erin I had a similar experience a couple years ago, when I read a book chronicling the Korean experience during WWII and felt completely shocked and ignorant about everything I read! I think there are good reasons we focus so much on the actions of the Nazis, but most American school systems barely touch on what was happening in Russia or Japan and its surrounding countries. (And, bouncing off previous comments about why we focus on U.S. bombs instead of Japanese atrocities, I think it's less because of guilt and more because of historical importance. Those were the only atomic bombs ever used, and I'm guessing we talk about the bombs in the hopes that they remain the only atomic bombs ever used.)

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