Book Review: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

unbrokenTitle: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
Author: Laura Hillenbrand
Release Date: January 20, 2011
Rating: 5/5

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption is the incredible true story of Louis Zamperini, the man who went from being an Olympic athlete to a prisoner of war in Japan. The book chronicles Louis’s life, beginning with him as a troubled youth. As an outlet for his mischievous ways, Louis’s brother suggests Louis take up track. Louis’s passion for running quickly ignites and soon, Louis is shattering records and wins a spot in the 1936 Olympics. However, World War II soon begins and Louis becomes an airman, flying in a B-24 in the Pacific. One fateful day, his bomber crashes into the Pacific and miraculously, Louis survives. He endures weeks stranded on a raft in the middle of the open ocean, with little more than dehydration, malnutrition, and the threat of sharks to keep him company. After more than 40 days at sea, the raft finds an island and Louis is captured by the Japanese and is soon sent to a POW camp. Hillenbrand depicts Louis’s time spent in the camps, illustrating the brutality of the Japanese guards and showcasing Louis’s courageous fight for survival.

Hillenbrand does an amazing job putting together pieces of history in order to formulate this book. She uses old journals, pictures, and numerous interviews from Louis and his family and friends to recreate his story. The book felt very authentic and it is obvious that Hillenbrand did an insurmountable amount of research while writing this book. The points of view from Louis and other soldiers throughout the war transports the reader back in time and although the events happened 80 years ago, Hillenbrand is able to vividly bring them back to life. She does a great job describing the different types of airplanes used in the war and goes into great detail about the bomber that Louis is assigned to. Hillenbrand also describes different events in the war, but her descriptions were a perfect supplement and never felt too heavy.

Because the book focuses around the fight for survival, there are some scenes that can be hard to read. Prisoners of war were often treated brutally and dehumanized by their captors. Although the content was dark at times, I think that HIllenbrand did a good job of writing it very tastefully. She conveys real human emotion on the pages and although his journey was a dark one, I thought that Louis’s perspective was incredibly fascinating. Although the story is predominantly about Louis, there are other soldiers that are featured in the story, such as Phil, and I think it was so important that Hillenbrand focused on these men as well. It was interesting to see how individual men endured the horrific circumstances and it was fascinating to see how Louis compared to and related to them as well.

Overall, I absolutely loved this book. Louis’s life was remarkable and the events that he lived through were unbelievable. I have always found history to be captivating, especially this time period, and I thought that Hillenbrand did an amazing job bringing the events of World War II to life. I think that Hillenbrand has a great writing style, making this book an easy read. Don’t be discouraged by the length of the book because it’s an amazing story and I would highly recommend it.

If you have read Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, I would love to hear your thoughts as well. To view Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption on Amazon, please click here.

The film adaptation, Unbroken, will be released in theaters this Thursday, December 25.

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