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Unbroken Paperback – Large Print, September 1, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: ISIS Large Print Books; Large type edition edition (September 1, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0753152908
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753152904
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14,251 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,394,713 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2010: From Laura Hillenbrand, the bestselling author of Seabiscuit, comes Unbroken, the inspiring true story of a man who lived through a series of catastrophes almost too incredible to be believed. In evocative, immediate descriptions, Hillenbrand unfurls the story of Louie Zamperini--a juvenile delinquent-turned-Olympic runner-turned-Army hero. During a routine search mission over the Pacific, Louie’s plane crashed into the ocean, and what happened to him over the next three years of his life is a story that will keep you glued to the pages, eagerly awaiting the next turn in the story and fearing it at the same time. You’ll cheer for the man who somehow maintained his selfhood and humanity despite the monumental degradations he suffered, and you’ll want to share this book with everyone you know. --Juliet Disparte

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 hellraiser, stealing everything edible that he could carry, staging elaborate pranks, getting in fistfights, and bedeviling 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.


--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. From the 1936 Olympics to WWII Japan's most brutal POW camps, Hillenbrand's heart-wrenching new book is thousands of miles and a world away from the racing circuit of her bestselling Seabiscuit. But it's just as much a page-turner, and its hero, Louie Zamperini, is just as loveable: a disciplined champion racer who ran in the Berlin Olympics, he's a wit, a prankster, and a reformed juvenile delinquent who put his thieving skills to good use in the POW camps, In other words, Louie is a total charmer, a lover of life--whose will to live is cruelly tested when he becomes an Army Air Corps bombardier in 1941. The young Italian-American from Torrance, Calif., was expected to be the first to run a four-minute mile. After an astonishing but losing race at the 1936 Olympics, Louie was hoping for gold in the 1940 games. But war ended those dreams forever. In May 1943 his B-24 crashed into the Pacific. After a record-breaking 47 days adrift on a shark-encircled life raft with his pal and pilot, Russell Allen "Phil" Phillips, they were captured by the Japanese. In the "theater of cruelty" that was the Japanese POW camp network, Louie landed in the cruelest theaters of all: Omori and Naoetsu, under the control of Corp. Mutsuhiro Watanabe, a pathologically brutal sadist (called the Bird by camp inmates) who never killed his victims outright--his pleasure came from their slow, unending torment. After one beating, as Watanabe left Louie's cell, Louie saw on his face a "soft languor.... It was an expression of sexual rapture." And Louie, with his defiant and unbreakable spirit, was Watanabe's victim of choice. By war's end, Louie was near death. When Naoetsu was liberated in mid-August 1945, a depleted Louie's only thought was "I'm free! I'm free! I'm free!" But as Hillenbrand shows, Louie was not yet free. Even as, returning stateside, he impulsively married the beautiful Cynthia Applewhite and tried to build a life, Louie remained in the Bird's clutches, haunted in his dreams, drinking to forget, and obsessed with vengeance. In one of several sections where Hillenbrand steps back for a larger view, she writes movingly of the thousands of postwar Pacific PTSD sufferers. With no help for their as yet unrecognized illness, Hillenbrand says, "there was no one right way to peace; each man had to find his own path...." The book's final section is the story of how, with Cynthia's help, Louie found his path. It is impossible to condense the rich, granular detail of Hillenbrand's narrative of the atrocities committed (one man was exhibited naked in a Tokyo zoo for the Japanese to "gawk at his filthy, sore-encrusted body") against American POWs in Japan, and the courage of Louie and his fellow POWs, who made attempts on Watanabe's life, committed sabotage, and risked their own lives to save others. Hillenbrand's triumph is that in telling Louie's story (he's now in his 90s), she tells the stories of thousands whose suffering has been mostly forgotten. She restores to our collective memory this tale of heroism, cruelty, life, death, joy, suffering, remorselessness, and redemption. (Nov.) -Reviewed by Sarah F. Gold
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Amazing story of survival and the strength of the human spirit.
penny schneringer
I had a hard time putting this book down once I started reading it.
Sharon Pratt
This is an amazing story that is well written by Laura Hillenbrand.
Sally J. Haywood

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3,376 of 3,452 people found the following review helpful By Liat2768 TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I read this book in two days flat and I know that, had I had the time, I would have read it in one sitting. This is a book that grips you, draws you in and leaves you feeling a slightly better person for having read it.

The story is that of Louie Zamperini - a track and field star of the 1930's, who participated in the Berlin olympics, was part of the US air force in WWII, was shot down over the ocean, was adrift in the Pacific for over a month, was held as a POW by the Japanese forces and finally made it back to his life and has had the courage to live it to its fullest.

Hillenbrand is a marvellous author. I was never tempted to read Seabiscuit and this was my first introduction to her work. She is one of a few authors who can write a non fiction story in the most gripping and vivid way imaginable. Instead of being flowery or overly embellished her prose relies squarely on research and on witness accounts and yet manages to never be dull. The swiftly moving story takes the reader from Zamperini's early beginnings, his swift rise to track star, the Berlin olympics and then to the World War. This is where the story really blooms. Hillenbrand settles in for the long haul here and we get to see the air force and the B24 bombers through the words of the men who actually flew them. The sequences where Zamperini and his friend Phil are adrift at sea are vivid and strangely beautifully described. The horrors that await them at the Japanese prison camps are not glossed over but neither does Hillenbrand wallow in the gore and violence as some authors may be tempted to do. There is always a strong sense of the respect the author holds for the men whose story she is being allowed to tell.
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1,102 of 1,158 people found the following review helpful By Ken C. TOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Louis Zamperini? Who is he? Laura Hillenbrand's near 500-page reply will answer the question not only once, but for all. He is the California boy who was a kleptomaniac. He is the running prodigy who competed at Hitler's Berlin Olympics, shook hands with the Fuhrer, and was almost shot by Nazi guards for stealing a Nazi souvenir. He is the American serviceman who entered the Pacific theater, crashed into the sea, and spent a harrowing forty-odd days floating on a disintegrating raft circled by aggressive sharks, scorched by a relentless sun, and gnawed to the bone by an inescapable hunger.

Who is Louis Zamperini? He is a man who overcame all THAT only to be "rescued" by the wrong side -- the Japanese. He is the man who went from being a prisoner of starvation and sharks that actually leaped up and tried to snatch him out of the foundering raft to being a prisoner of Japanese guards who were every bit as predatory as the great white of the seas. He is the man who was beaten every day by a particular Japanese corporal named Mutsuhiro Watanabe, a.k.a. "the Bird." He is, in short, the Unbroken One -- the man who kept getting up, coming back, rebounding, and holding on to the tenuous thread that connected him with life and hope, past any duration that any of us could possibly imagine. And, as YOU can imagine, his story is compelling. In fact, in the capable hands of Laura Hillenbrand, author of SEABISCUIT, it reads like a thriller, a page-turner, a fictional product of a keenly talented mind -- proving once again that truth can trump fiction when it comes to stories and mankind's love of hearing them.

When you reach the end of this man's incredible journey, you will be awed by the scope of Hillenbrand's writing.
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527 of 575 people found the following review helpful By Wulfstan TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is the long (500 pages) extremely detailed, meticulously researched and extremely moving story of a Hero. And yes, the caps on "hero" was intentional.

In the first half of the book we get a detailed biography of Louis Zamperini- bad boy, then track and field star and Olympic contender. Possibly too detailed here, I admit. We then segue into WWI and Lt Zamperini's Air Corps career as a B-24 bombardier. Great stuff here, goes into fascinating detail about the B24 Liberator and the men who flew them in the Pacific. The last portion here is a harrowing tale of survival in the open seas, one of the best I have read.

Then, Louie Zamperini gets captured by the Japanese. Folks, watching Bridge on the River Kwai will not prepare you for the brutality and inhumanity of the horrors Laura Hillenbrand brings to life here. Now, this is a gripping adventure story, well told, one that is hard to put down. But I had to put this book down in a couple places here, the story was that brutally true.

A tale of unbelievable endurance, hardship and heroism. A real page turner, extremely well written and readable.
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362 of 394 people found the following review helpful By Archie Mercer VINE VOICE on September 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
No one can accuse Laura Hillenbrand, author of Seabiscuit: An American Legend, of ever doing a half-effort job of research when she writes narrative nonfiction. Spending seven years on this effort, the Author has produced one of the most detailed stories of an American POW being held by the Japanese during World War II that I have ever read. With the many interviews with the subject during her research, along with interviews of family members, other POW's and their families, reading over unpublished memoirs, personal letters, and military documents, it would have been easy for this book to have become a long drawn-out and sterile narrative that would read like a text book. Instead we're treated to a captivating and at times heart-wrenching story that takes a group of unknowns and present them in a way that you truly come to know them.

The subject of the book is Louis Zamperini, whose life would have been an interesting read even before the events during WWII. A relatively trouble child who stole everything in sight, he grows up to become one of the greatest track stars of his time, shattering the national high school record in the mile and becoming one of the youngest members of the U.S. Olympic team in 1936. Many felt that Zamperini would become the first person to break the four minute mile. With the onset of the war, he was drafted into the Army Air Force and became a bombardier assigned to the semi-unreliable B-24. After surviving a number of bombing missions against Japanese targets his plane goes down in the middle of the ocean while searching for another downed plane.
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