The Short Take:
This is the true story of Olympic runner and WWII POW Louis Zamperini. It includes triumphs along with unbelievable brutality. This man’s story is incredible. Even better, I found that though this book is built around one exceptional man, it gave me a better feel for the war in the Pacific than sum total of all I’ve encountered before.
It is hard to imagine a more incredible life than that of Louis Zamperini — and he’s not done living even yet (yes, that is a spoiler, but did you honestly expect a different ending with this book’s title?). The man has accomplished things that most people only dream of. Beyond that, he has suffered in ways that are beyond comprehension for all but a few.
However, Unbroken also presents a clear and nuanced picture of the war in the Pacific. You realize how little warfare then resembles modern times: Information is vague, limited and slow; directions are haphazard — sometimes based on maps 100 years old. This book also gave me a much better understanding of why we dropped the atomic bomb. I’d always been told the reason, but Hillenbrand brought it home in a visceral way.
Unbroken is not for the faint of heart. However, for me, the courage and resourcefulness of Zamperini and those whose lot he shared far outweighed the suffering and brutal treatment. Hillenbrand laid out the facts unblinkingly, but not in a way to shock — only to inform.
The only possible quibble I had with this truly outstanding book was that sometimes her in=depth information about running statistics or a plane design could bog things down every once in a while. But we know how to handle that, right? Scan.
A Little Plot:
Louis Zamperini was a scoundrel as a kid and teen, constantly in trouble. Pushed by his brother, he got into running, setting records and achieving international attention.
He is training for the Olympics when Pearl Harbor is attacked. Like thousands of others, he enlists in the Army Air Forces. Trained as a bombardier, he is sent to the Pacific. He sees action, but it’s when he is sent out on a rescue mission that his own plane crashes into the ocean. Only Zamperini and two others survive, floating in the vast Pacific Ocean for weeks on end.
When they finally are spotted, it is by the Japanese. That is when things go from terribly bad to immeasurably worse.
For more about this book and it’s author, click here. Do read this one. Even if, like me, you would jsut as soon avoid books about war, this amazing book should be the exception.