Monday, June 11, 2012

Unbroken: a very short review

Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit: Three Men and a Racehorse was a massive worldwide hit, and became a movie hit as well.

It took her seven years to write her next book: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. As she describes the experience:

When I finished writing my first book, Seabiscuit: An American Legend, I felt certain that I would never again find a subject that fascinated me as did the Depression-era racehorse and the team of men who campaigned him. When I had my first conversation with the infectiously effervescent and apparently immortal Louie Zamperini, I changed my mind.

That conversation began my seven-year journal through Louie's unlikely life.

I didn't read Hillenbrand's first book, but now I think I might.

Unbroken is definitely a fascinating story. Zamperini, who at age 95 is one of the last living members of that group that Tom Brokaw so perfectly coined "our greatest generation", has one of the most astonishing life stories that you will ever hear.

The majority of the book is concerned with Zamperini's wartime survival story. There were, of course, many many such stories, but Zamperini's story is more dramatic than most, and Hillenbrand tells it well.

To be sure, this is not an easy book to read. The tales of horror in the South Pacific are dreadful, and there were several chapters of the book that I could barely bring myself to read. Hillenbrand pulls no punches, laying it all out there for you.

As Hillenbrand tells it, Zamperini's story is also the story of a nation, and of the world; there are many others who pass through his life, both friend and enemy, and the events that he was part of changed the entire history of the world. Zamperini was of course just one man, but Hillenbrand makes sure, at appropriate points, to tie Zamperini's personal experiences to the broader picture of what was happening in the world. It's definitely a unique and vivid way to experience the horror and tragedy of World War II.

I'm glad I read the book, though I'm not sure it's for everyone. But if you think it might be for you, give Unbroken a try!

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