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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
962 of 973 people found the following review helpful: 5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most stunning books of the year, September 24, 2010 This review is from: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption (Hardcover) Customer review from the Amazon Vine? Program (What's this?) I read this book in two days flat and I know that, had I had the time, I would have read it in one sitting. This is a book that grips you, draws you in and leaves you feeling a slightly better person for having read it.
The story is that of Louie Zamperini - a track and field star of the 1930's, who participated in the Berlin olympics, was part of the US air force in WWII, was shot down over the ocean, was adrift in the Pacific for over a month, was held as a POW by the Japanese forces and finally made it back to his life and has had the courage to live it to its fullest.
Hillenbrand is a marvellous author. I was never tempted to read Seabiscuit and this was my first introduction to her work. She is one of a few authors who can write a non fiction story in the most gripping and vivid way imaginable. Instead of being flowery or overly embellished her prose relies squarely on research and on witness accounts and yet manages to never be dull. The swiftly moving story takes the reader from Zamperini's early beginnings, his swift rise to track star, the Berlin olympics and then to the World War. This is where the story really blooms. Hillenbrand settles in for the long haul here and we get to see the air force and the B24 bombers through the words of the men who actually flew them. The sequences where Zamperini and his friend Phil are adrift at sea are vivid and strangely beautifully described. The horrors that await them at the Japanese prison camps are not glossed over but neither does Hillenbrand wallow in the gore and violence as some authors may be tempted to do. There is always a strong sense of the respect the author holds for the men whose story she is being allowed to tell.
History has perhaps focused its eye too exclusively on the war in Europe to the extent where the situation in the Pacific and the plight of POW's there has not recieved the attention and the respect it deserves. Hillenbrand's book and detailed research certainly makes a strong attempt to change that.
Solidly based on statistics and army reports from both sides of the war, Hillenbrands book paints a clear picture of the hellish conditions that the POW's endured and the utter madness of the war that was being waged in the Pacific. This is a hard story to read but one that is well worth it. The falling apart of Louie's life and his slow path to regaining his life and sense of purpose is a story that is truly inspiring. This book will find a permanent place of honor on my bookshelf.Help other customers find the most helpful reviews Was this review helpful to you?
253 of 267 people found the following review helpful: 5.0 out of 5 stars Epic Biography, October 2, 2010 This review is from: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption (Hardcover) Customer review from the Amazon Vine? Program (What's this?) Louis Zamperini? Who is he? Laura Hillenbrand's near 500-page reply will answer the question not only once, but for all. He is the California boy who was a kleptomaniac. He is the running prodigy who competed at Hitler's Berlin Olympics, shook hands with the Fuhrer, and was almost shot by Nazi guards for stealing a Nazi souvenir. He is the American serviceman who entered the Pacific theater, crashed into the sea, and spent a harrowing forty-odd days floating on a disintegrating raft circled by aggressive sharks, scorched by a relentless sun, and gnawed to the bone by an inescapable hunger.
Who is Louis Zamperini? He is a man who overcame all THAT only to be "rescued" by the wrong side -- the Japanese. He is the man who went from being a prisoner of starvation and sharks that actually leaped up and tried to snatch him out of the foundering raft to being a prisoner of Japanese guards who were every bit as predatory as the great white of the seas. He is the man who was beaten every day by a particular Japanese corporal named Mutsuhiro Watanabe, a.k.a. "the Bird." He is, in short, the Unbroken One -- the man who kept getting up, coming back, rebounding, and holding on to the tenuous thread that connected him with life and hope, past any duration that any of us could possibly imagine. And, as YOU can imagine, his story is compelling. In fact, in the capable hands of Laura Hillenbrand, author of SEABISCUIT, it reads like a thriller, a page-turner, a fictional product of a keenly talented mind -- proving once again that truth can trump fiction when it comes to stories and mankind's love of hearing them.
When you reach the end of this man's incredible journey, you will be awed by the scope of Hillenbrand's writing. It is clear that she did a vast amount of research -- reading letters, telegrams, newspaper clippings, radio transcripts, etc., AND interviewing not only Zamperini himself, but his family members, friends, surviving fellow servicemen, and even Japanese captors. Woven in her biography are many statistics and facts from the history of World War II as well. You will learn about the science of survival -- why certain men live and certain men die -- and about the strengths and weaknesses of America's planes that carried servicemen over the vast distances of the Pacific Ocean. You will learn about the war strategy, the Japanese culture and its effects on treatment of POWs as well as on conducting (and refusing to surrender in) a war to the bitter end. And, sadly, you will learn about the aftermath of war in Japan.
It's all here, bigger than life, packed into the small frame of one man from Torrance, California -- a man that could, and did, live to tell about a page in history we hope never to repeat. Both a personal tale of redemption and resilience, UNBROKEN is destined to become a classic in the category of narrative nonfiction. Ordinarily I'm a fiction guy, but I was spellbound from the start. Honest. Give it a try. It's big, but reads small. I think, when you reach the end, you, too, will sing its (and Louie's) praises (at 93, Zamperini is still alive and still "Unbroken"!).Help other customers find the most helpful reviews Was this review helpful to you?
227 of 240 people found the following review helpful: 5.0 out of 5 stars Another masterpiece by the author of "Seabiscuit", September 28, 2010 This review is from: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption (Hardcover) Customer review from the Amazon Vine? Program (What's this?) This is the long (500 pages) extremely detailed, meticulously researched and extremely moving story of a Hero. And yes, the caps on "hero" was intentional.
In the first half of the book we get a detailed biography of Louis Zamperini- bad boy, then track and field star and Olympic contender. Possibly too detailed here, I admit. We then segue into WWI and Lt Zamperini's Air Corps career as a B-24 bombardier. Great stuff here, goes into fascinating detail about the B24 Liberator and the men who flew them in the Pacific. The last portion here is a harrowing tale of survival in the open seas, one of the best I have read.
Then, Louie Zamperini gets captured by the Japanese. Folks, watching Bridge on the River Kwai will not prepare you for the brutality and inhumanity of the horrors Laura Hillenbrand brings to life here. Now, this is a gripping adventure story, well told, one that is hard to put down. But I had to put this book down in a couple places here, the story was that brutally true.
A tale of unbelievable endurance, hardship and heroism. A real page turner, extremely well written and readable.
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