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

  • Title: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
  • Author: Laura Hillenbrand
  • Genre: Biography/True stories
  • Series: No
  • Available in the library: Yes

UnbrokenUnbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand is the bestselling biography of Olympian Louis Zamperini. Louis competed in the 1936 Olympics and during World War II the engines on his bomber failed and he plummeted to the Pacific Ocean. He survived on the open water for 47 days , only to be “rescued” by the Japanese and sent to a POW camp where he endured years of torture.

I loved this book, it was mesmerising and Louis’ will to survive is truly inspiring. The book was voted best non-fiction by Time Magazine in 2010.

Louis is still alive at the age 97 years and this is what Laura Hillenbrand had to say about meeting him and then writing the book.

The Story of Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Eight years ago, an old man told me a story that took my breath away. His name was Louie Zamperini, and from the day I first spoke to him, his almost incomprehensibly dramatic life was my obsession. It was a horse – the subject of my first book, Seabiscuit: An American Legend–who led me to Louie. As I researched the Depression-era racehorse, I kept coming across stories about Louie, a 1930s track star who endured an amazing odyssey in World War II. I knew only a little about him then, but I couldn’t shake him from my mind.

After I finished Seabiscuit, I tracked Louie down, called him and asked about his life. For the next hour, he had me transfixed. Growing up in California in the 1920s, Louie was a hell raiser, stealing everything edible that he could carry, staging elaborate pranks, getting in fistfights, and bedevilling the local police. But as a teenager, he emerged as one of the greatest runners America had ever seen, competing at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, where he put on a sensational performance, crossed paths with Hitler, and stole a German flag right off the Reich Chancellery. He was preparing for the 1940 Olympics, and closing in on the fabled four-minute mile, when World War II began. Louie joined the Army Air Corps, becoming a bombardier. Stationed on Oahu, he survived harrowing combat, including an epic air battle that ended when his plane crash-landed, some six hundred holes in its fuselage and half the crew seriously wounded. On a May afternoon in 1943, Louie took off on a search mission for a lost plane. Somewhere over the Pacific, the engines on his bomber failed. The plane plummeted into the sea, leaving Louie and two other men stranded on a tiny raft. Drifting for weeks and thousands of miles, they endured starvation and desperate thirst, sharks that leapt aboard the raft, trying to drag them off, a machine-gun attack from a Japanese bomber, and a typhoon with waves some forty feet high. At last, they spotted an island. As they rowed toward it, unbeknownst to them, a Japanese military boat was lurking nearby. Louie’s journey had only just begun.

That first conversation with Louie was a pivot point in my life. Fascinated by his experiences, and the mystery of how a man could overcome so much, I began a seven-year journey through his story. I found it in diaries, letters and unpublished memoirs; in the memories of his family and friends, fellow Olympians, former American airmen and Japanese veterans; in forgotten papers in archives as far-flung as Oslo and Canberra. Along the way, there were staggering surprises, and Louie’s unlikely, inspiring story came alive for me. It is a tale of daring, defiance, persistence, ingenuity, and the ferocious will of a man who refused to be broken. The culmination of my journey is my new book, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. I hope you are as spellbound by Louie’s life as I am.

“A ONE-IN-A-BILLION STORY … Zamperini’s story seems designed to wrench from self-respecting critics all the blurby adjectives we normally try to avoid: It is amazing, unforgettable, gripping, harrowing, chilling, and inspiring. It sucked me in and swept me away.  It kept me reading late into the night.  I could not … (it really hurts me to type this) … put it … (must find the strength to resist) … down.”  – New York Magazine

This is also the reason why Angeline Jolie as been visiting Australia as she films Louis amazing story.

Watch the trailer below.

What now?

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