Monday, December 6, 2010

If I had to do it again I'd kill myself

I was looking at the calendar and my schedule for the week and noticed that tomorrow is Pearl Harbor Day. I've read many books on World War II but I could only think of one about the attack on Pearl Harbor: At Dawn We Slept by Gordon Prange. But I read it years ago and it's neither an easy read nor the kind of book I'd readily recommend. I recently watched "National Geographic Beyond the Movie - Pearl Harbor" which was pretty good. If you're like me you watched the movie "Pearl Harbor" and wondered how much of the story was real and how much was made up - this documentary explains what really happened and where the filmmakers took some liberties. But instead I'll review another WWII book I just finished, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand which I got from Amazon Vine.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and RedemptionUnbroken tells the story of Louis Zamperini, who was one of those kids who make even the juvenile delinquents look like angels. He fought with everyone, stole from everyone, and was constantly in trouble with pretty much everyone. But in high school he discovered running and a talent for it that carried him to the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Many even predicted him to be the first man to break the 4 minute mile and he looked forward to competing in the 1940 Olympics. But Pearl Harbor and WWII changed everything. He became a bombardier aboard a B-24 Liberator flying over the Pacific, and in May of 1943 his plane went down while on a search and rescue mission. Only he and two others survived the watery crash, and thus began an ordeal that was to last well beyond the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan.

Laura Hillenbrand (well-known for her best-seller Seabiscuit) covers Louie's history from his incorrigible youth in Torrance, California to carrying Olympic torches and riding skateboards in his 80s, and does so in a way that makes the book hard to put down. His triumphs on the track are inspiring, his trials as a castaway and POW are astonishing, and his post-war struggles with PTSD are heart-breaking. But through it all Louie remains "unbroken" even in the face of insurmountable difficulties and a sadistically brutal Japanese commander nicknamed The Bird who continued to haunt him even years after the war's end. At times his story sounds almost too good to be true and it drags a bit throughout the POW years, but I still found myself unable to put it down. I started it on vacation last week and our friend Ann picked it up and read the Preface and was ready to buy her own copy - it sounds that good. And I especially appreciated the histories of others in the story - Phil, the pilot of the plane; Bill Harris, a fellow POW; and even The Bird - and I wished there'd been even more on some of them. It might not be about Pearl Harbor but it's a compelling story and I think it's an easy bet that this will be another best-seller for Hillenbrand.


  1. Hello,

    I noted your comment on Amazon about this book, but would like clarification. Is this book a novel (fiction), or a true story?

    Thank you

    Eileen Colville

    P.S. Alas, I am not a computer savvy person . . . meaning I do not understand the choices listed on "Comment as". This is why I have listed by email address.

  2. Hi Eileen,

    Sorry I didn't make that clear - the book is not fiction; it's the true story of Mr. Zamperini. But it's no dry history - it reads as easily as a novel in many ways. I hope you enjoy it!