Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

From the Hardcover editionUnbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
Published by Random House

In 1943, right in the heart of World War Two, an Army Air Forces plane crashed in the Pacific Ocean and disappeared. Louis Zamperini was a lieutenant on that plane and somehow, miraculously, he survived the crash and ended up on a life raft, fighting the elements for his survival. Unbroken is the story of his  miraculous journey.

I don’t think I would have decided to read Unbroken if it weren’t for book club. And I have to be honest and say that I didn’t love this book, although it seems that I am in quite the minority with this opinion. To be fair, there were things I liked about the book and once it got going, I couldn’t put it down. But the beginning was such that had it not been a book club selection, I wouldn’t have made it past the first 100 pages.

The reason I say this is because I simply couldn’t bring myself to care about Zamperini as a person for the entire first section of the book. Hillenbrand recounts his childhood in exquisite detail, and to be honest, he was not a very good kid. He wasn’t just a misbehaving child, he was a juvenile delinquent! And while reading about his time in the Olympics was mildly interesting, it didn’t add enough to his personality for me to care about him. At our book club meeting, some of the ladies were saying that after finishing Unbroken, it’s clear why Hillenbrand spent so much time detailing Zamperini’s childhood, and while I’d agree with that statement, the fact of the matter is that as I was reading it I wasn’t interested. So for me, that was a problem.

But once the action really got going – when the plane crashed and Zamperini and two others were stranded in the middle of the ocean – I couldn’t put the book down. This story is absolutely astonishing as these men survived impossible odds and lived through situations that I cannot even fathom. Their story is beyond remarkable and kudos to Hillenbrand for telling it. I think she told it in a fascinating and compelling way and I was hanging on her every word. It was heartbreaking to read, because every time I would think their journey through hell and back was over, something even worse would happen. It was excruciating! But this is truly a story of courage and of surviving the absolute worst odds one can imagine. It’s inspiring.

While I enjoyed the majority of Unbroken and would still recommend it, I have to be honest about my reservations with the beginning of the book. I personally would have stopped reading this book after fifty or so pages had it not been for book club, which is a shame. This is an engaging and important read about a truly amazing man, and even though I had some trouble with it, I would still recommend Unbroken.

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19 thoughts on “Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

  1. I totally agree with you about the beginning of the book, and had I been reading instead of listening in audio, I would have totally given up on it! Once the crash took place though, it was an unforgettable story that I couldn’t stop listening or thinking about. I do agree with you also that Louis was more than just a bad kid. If he had been my son, I don’t know what I would have done with him! This was a great and very honest review about a book that many seemed to have read and loved. I am glad that we both had a similar opinion on it!

    1. Yes, I have to admit that I was sooo relieved when they finally crashed (that sounds horrible, I know) because then the action finally picked up. I was very touch and go with this one for quite awhile there. I’m glad to know I wasn’t the only one who felt this way about the beginning.

  2. Ti felt the same way as you did. I guess that beginning part didn’t bother me or bore me, maybe because I was listening on audio and it just flew by. And I guess I knew generally where this was all going, I found it a fascinating part of the story that he started off his life on a path that was headed for prison. I love it when people turn themselves around. You make a great point in telling people to stick it out…that last half of the book is amazing.

    1. I find that slower, more “boring” nonfiction works better for me on audio too, so I’m thinking I wouldn’t have been so annoyed with the beginning if I was listening. Oh well.

  3. Despite all the rave reviews this has gotten, I am afraid I’d feel the same as you did in the beginning and just not be interested in his story. I think for that reason I’ve decided not to read this one. If anyone ever wants to discuss I feel like I’ve read enough reviews and opinions to be able to participate in the discussion, lol.

  4. Oh, I think if I didn’t like him as a person, I wouldn’t like the book much, either. It’s hard for me to get over things like that, I admit. Glad it got better for you later on, though!

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