Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand
It has been a while since I’ve read such a compelling story/life/writing style. Admittedly, a nonfiction account of a POW in Japan during World War II is not something I would normally pick up. But Louis Zamperini had an amazing life. And Laura Hillenbrand can write. These two factors combine beautifully into a book I’d recommend to just about everyone. Though, just about everyone I know has already read it. (Both of my book clubs have this on their rosters this year.)
Whew. Louis Zamperini is described at one point by Hillenbrand as “apparently immortal.” And I have to concur with that. His life story is awe-inspiring and recounted in such detail here in large part due to his massive collection of journals and memorabilia. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about his early/Olympic years. And even the B-24 Super Man years. But it was excruciating to read the POW years. I finished the last 200 pages in one sitting because I couldn’t bear to leave Louie in the camps.
Even though it was hard to read at times, I really appreciated Hillenbrand’s attention to detail. She managed to include interesting and colorful facts about just about everything without boring me at all. That is a remarkable feat. She also managed to make all of the “supporting” characters interesting and multi-dimensional. This, too, is remarkable.
Finally, I am really glad that this story has been told. There are so very many stories about the European theater of World War II and the Holocaust and the Nazis and whatnot. I have read dozens of them. But there are not nearly as many about the comparable atrocities suffered at the hands of the Japanese. This is an important era of history that I am glad I know more about.
Also, I will be reading Seabiscuit and anything else Hillenbrand cares to write henceforth. (Did you know Hillenbrand has chronic fatigue syndrome? I’m even more impressed with the book after learning that.)