On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane's bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.
The lieutenants name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he'd been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.
Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.
In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit. Telling an unforgettable story of a man's journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.
When a book generates as much pre-publication buzz as Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken, I tend to be a bit prejudiced against it from the start. I've found that rarely do books live up to the expectations I've developed for them based on the press they've generated. I was delighted to find, though, that Unbroken not only lives up to its hype, but far surpasses it. I can honestly say that I can't remember the last time a non-fiction book held my attention as well as this one did, from start to finish. It's the first book I've read in a very long time that I've wanted to force on all my friends. Yes, it's that good. (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).
The New York Times - Janet Maslin
And if some of it sounds too much like pulp fiction to be true, Ms. Hillenbrand has also done a bang-up research job…[Unbroken]manages to be as exultant as Seabiscuit as it tells a much more harrowing, less heart-warming story.
Because of the author's popularity, libraries will want this book both for general readers who like a good story and for World War II history buffs; however, it's not essential reading for those who read Zamperini's autobiography, Devil at My Heels.
[Hillenbrand's] skills are as polished as ever, and like its predecessor, this book has an impossible-to-put-down quality that one commonly associates with good thrillers.
Starred Review. Hillenbrand's triumph is that in telling Louie's story (he's now in his 90s), she tells the stories of thousands whose suffering has been mostly forgotten. She restores to our collective memory this tale of heroism, cruelty, life, death, joy, suffering, remorselessness, and redemption
[Hillenbrand] returns with another dynamic, well-researched story of guts overcoming odds...Alternately stomach-wrenching, anger-arousing and spirit-lifting–and always gripping.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Margaret Dropek personal The book gave me a better understanding what my husband went through in the 8th A.F. serving on a B-24 in the E.T.O. in 1943 as S.Sgt. and Chief Eng. and top turret gunner. It was a wonderfully discriptive and interesting.
Rated of 5
by Gladys Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand Our lIbrary chose Unbroken for us to read in our Book group.
I thought I would not be alble to read this book because my father went to WW2 & to the Korean war & I did not want to re-visit what happened during that war. I was glad that I... Read More
Rated of 5
by Louise J Incredible Story! This isn’t normally the type of book I would choose to read but something about the synopsis on the cover propelled me into buying it and I’m glad I did. This is the incredible and true story of Louis Zamperini’s survival, and redemption and the... Read More
Rated of 5
by JW Power of the human spirit This is an absolutely amazing story of human courage and strength as well as human perversity and cruelty. It is a war story but so much more. To read what these men went through is torture in itself. It seemed like the horror, from the moment... Read More
Rated of 5
by Abbey Rheinhartt An Important Historical Piece with Mass Appeal Once again, Lauren Hillenbrand, who brought us Seabiscuit, has brought us a perfectly researched and perfectly written book. Although it is about World War II, it should be read by all, and perhaps become required reading in high school.
Rated of 5
by Cathy H. Enlightening and inspiring This well-researched book should be widely read. At the very least, it puts to rest any lingering doubts over the necessity to drop the big bombs to end the Pacific War. The sacrifices made by Louie, and every other man who served in WWII, as... Read More
Japanese Prisoners of War Much of Unbroken relays Louis Zamperini's experiences as a Japanese prisoner of war. Hillenbrand cites staggering statistics. Zamperini was but one of approximately 132,000 POWs from the United States, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Holland and Australia. More than a quarter of these prisoners died, including 12,935 Americans (more than 37 percent of Americans captured by the Japanese). These numbers don't include the thousands of Chinese who were murdered, nor those prisoners killed after surrender but before reaching the POW camps (for example, those who perished along the sixty-mile Bataan Death March in the Philippines). By comparison, only 1 percent of Americans held by the Nazis and Italians died during WWII.
While there were certainly Japanese guards who tried to help their prisoners, Japanese culture predisposed many toward excessive abuse of their captives. Japanese children were taught that as a people specially blessed by their sun goddess Ama-terasu Omikami it was their destiny to rule over all other...
New York Times bestselling author David L. Robbins presents a riveting novel of war, love, and survival, set against the backdrop of an improbable rescue, the Los Baños prison raid -- one of the most daring episodes of World War II.
Utterly compelling and impressively detailed - dramatically recounts the story behind the Bataan Death March and the realities of survival in a Japanese prison camp. A true-to-life narrative as intelligently orchestrated and satisfying as the raid that ultimately liberated these men."
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