About My Book Reviews

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

 Image result for unbroken book cover

Title: Unbroken

Author: Laura Hillenbrand

Published: 2010

Genre: Biography

Grade Level: Adult

-Trigger Warning: Torture, depression, anxiety, and alcoholism

-Movie Rating: R

-Features: PTSD

Blurb (from goodreads):

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.

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. Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

Disclaimer: My review of this biography is not in any way a reflection upon the person or their life. I am a book reviewer, I review books… not people.

My Scores:

Writing Style: Flowery / Good

I find this book to be at points very engrossing and at others eye-droopingly bland. Hence why it very difficult to score.

The preface of the book is a great example of what I find enticing about the writing style of the book. It takes on a very narrative quality, describing the minute details of the surroundings, transporting the reader into the story. It is very easy to empathize with the men involved and conjure the same emotions that they no doubt experienced.

Unfortunately, the whole book is not written in this way.

It switches to a more journalistic style and “tells” rather than “shows” the events that took place. Instead of a narrative, it becomes more of a list of important points that give a detailed light on whatever subject is at hand. This technique is used to summarize long periods of time.

Which, most of the time, I was fine with. Until I wasn’t.

At points, it seems like the writing was unnecessarily dense. I know this isn't going to be much of a complaint for everyone, especially those who like nitty-gritty details, I’m just not one of those people who enjoy it.

For me, it took away from the suspense and momentum of the story. To give you a good idea of what I mean, the preface was two pages spent masterfully describing the events mentioned in the blurb, while the next 47 talk about his life before the war. I didn’t need that much time…

Characters: Memorable
(I known they’re real people. I’m referring to them as character’s anyway.)

Louie Zamperini, our MC, isn’t a likable character at first. He is a juvenile delinquent, causing trouble for everyone: his parents, the community, and the police. Thankfully, his older brother gives him an outlet for all his mischievous ways, running. And he runs all the way to the Olympics.

Then war came, and he is drafted into the Air Force, where his tenacity, defiance, and mischievous ways will serve him better than anyone would’ve believed. The trauma he endured in order to survive is truly an incredible feat of willpower.

This book truly opens your eyes to the plight of the POWs that are so often cast aside in favor of the soldiers who faced “actual combat” romanticized in action movies. However, they should be looked upon with just as much respect.

But what is the true cost of survival? How much willpower does is take to face the traumatic emotions that were pushed aside in the heat of the moment? Why doesn’t the trauma end once the actual treat is gone?

There is still a stigma attached to those who have PTSD. It is still looked upon by many men as a weakness causing them to suffer on in silence.

But Zamperini finds a way out through the healing power of Christianity. His transformation is truly mind-blowing. Just to give you an idea, Zamperini went from a man actively planning the murder a sadistic Japanese guard, nicknamed “The Bird,” to writing him a letter about forgiveness.

Plot: Slow Burn

Despite some of the more dull moments in this book, it was interesting enough to have me push through to the end.

As previously mentioned, there are several times when the momentum of the story was cut by adding in copious amounts of details. I think the plot would have been better served if they had been edited out.

That being said, the research that went into this book is insane! The notes section alone in the back of the book takes up 50 pages! I can only imagine the massive amounts of information that was edited out.

But I love the way all the research is woven together, only revealing what people knew at that time. I also love knowing what people chose to keep hidden from each other and the world at large.

Overall: Enjoyable

Overall, I am very glad to have read this book. It gave me a better perspective on POWs and the Japanese’ role in WWII. I loved getting to know Louis Zamperini and learning about his triumph over PTSD through Christianity.

I just wish more of the book had taken on that narrative quality, as shown in the preface. While I appreciate all the research that went into creating this book, at points it became very dense and very hard to get through.

Never give up.
There is true healing power through Christianity.

Extra Notes: The movie watered down everything! In my humble opinion, it's a waste of time and an insult to the life lived by Zamperini. 

Goodreads Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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