Book Review | Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Title: Unbroken – An extraordinary true story of courage and survival


By: Laura Hillenbrand


About the Author (From the Book) – Laura Hillenbrand is the author of the number-one bestseller Seabiscuit, which won the William Hill Sports Book of the Year, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Award and inspired the Academy Award-nominated film. She lives in Washington, D.C.


Cover Price:       Rs. 399.00


Rating:  4/5


Something about the book (from the Book’s cover): 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 lieutenant’s 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 channelled 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 the 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. Adrift on the foundering raft, Zamperini would face sharks, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering and hope, resolve, and humour; 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.


Now for my View: I can’t even begin to explain how much I love reading books set in the 19th century and the early 1900s. Perhaps, it won’t be wrong to say that I am fascinated and awed by those olden days. I can’t quite put my finger on it but there is definitely something that attracts me towards tales set in that era. That is precisely the reason I chose to read Unbroken. Unbroken is the true story of a United States Army Air Forces bomber, Louis Zamperini, set against the backdrop of World War II. It is the remarkable saga of how he survived a crash in the Pacific Ocean, followed by brutal torture as a Prisoner Of War and then the emotional upheaval of fighting those demons to start over his life. A man who fought against every calamity, natural or manmade and lived to tell his tale; undoubtedly that would probably be the best description of Louis Zamperini.


Laura Hillenbrand takes us through an amazing journey through her words; a journey that inspires and amazes at each and every step.  It is the chronicle of a man’s life who lived through a series of catastrophes; a true hero. It is the tale of a man who remained Unbroken. It is a non-fiction narrative that is no less than an edge of the seat thriller. Louis Zamperini was a child who could not be tamed until he fell in love with the track to become the Torrance Tornado. He was the American Olympic distance runner with a dream to win gold at the 1940 Olympic 1500 meters track event. But all that changed when World War II began and he was enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces as a bomber. It was at that stage in his life that he met Phil; pilot Russel Allen “Phil” Phillips; without knowing that one day they would together live through a crash in the fathomless pacific. They drifted in the Pacific towards Japanese territory for 47 days after which they were captured and sent to various POW Camps. It was in those camps that they were tortured and humiliated by the Japanese. It was in one such POW camp that Zamperini met a sadistic prison guard Mutsuhiro Watanabe who assaulted him both physically and emotionally. He was tortured to such an extent that Watanabe’s thoughts and dreams kept tormenting him even after he returned home after the war. With the end of World War II, Zamperini returned but he was a battered soul. He resorted to alcoholism until evangelist Billy Graham’s crusade came to his rescue. It is not possible for those living in this era to comprehend what soldiers during Wars in those times would have undergone. The agony of being away from family without the ease of connectivity that we now share was enormous. Added to that, the loss of lives due to less advanced machinery or lack of technology or due to deficient rescue systems made matters worse. On top of that, the fact that Japan did not abide by the terms of the Geneva Convention made the situation furthermore dangerous. Zamperini lived through all these and more and that is what makes his tale a must-read. Laura Hillenbrand casts a spell through her words which are backed by sound research. I personally found it difficult to stay away from this book. I wanted to know what would happen next, such was the level of interest that it evoked. This was my introduction to Laura Hillenbrand’s work and frankly, now I cannot wait to put my hands on Seabiscuit as well! She takes you on an incredible journey of one man. The Green Hornet, the enormous Pacific ocean , the bloodthirsty sharks, the deaths and bombs, the rafts, the Japanese soldiers, the air crafts, the islands, the prison guards, Watanabe, 1945 Japan, the Zamperini’s, Phil, the Olympics in Germany; everything comes to life as you read Hillenbrand’s brilliant narrative of Louis’ life. I found myself as the silent spectator as Louis transformed from the kleptomaniac kid of the neighbourhood to a resilient human being; such was the power of her words. Read it and you would treasure the experience too. Trust me you won’t be able to put it down!


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