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Showing 1-10 of 23,461 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 27,632 reviews
VINE VOICEon August 25, 2016
Laura Hillenbrand follows her spectacular biography of race horse Seabiscuit with the gripping tale of Louis Zamperini's life and tribulations as a downed airman in WWII. "Unbroken" is written in Hillenbrand's inimitable style, blending global events with personal anecdotes from the lives of Lt. Zamperini and his family and fellow airmen.

Prior to the war, Zamperini had overcome serious obstacles to become one of the best milers in track and field history, competing in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin with Jesse Owens and other famous American Olympians. As America entered WWII he became a bombardier flying B-24s in the Pacific Theater. When his plane ditched in a remote part of the Pacific, Louie and two colleagues survived the crash, and drifted thousands of miles for more than 47 days before being picked up by a Japanese ship. During those weeks they endured unthinkable hardships: one of their companions died aboard the life raft, they were repeatedly attacked by sharks, and strafed by Japanese planes.

After Louis and his pilot, Russell Allen Phillips were "rescued," an even more harrowing journey began, as both men were incarcerated in a series of brutal Japanese POW camps. The vivid descriptions of camp conditions and the inhuman brutality of many of the prison guards are gut wrenching. The depth of depravity that Louie and his fellow prisoners had to endure is unimaginable, and the fact that he survived to live a productive life is a testament to his incredibly resilient and unbreakable will and spirit.

The author does not shrink from telling about Louie's post-war troubles with alcohol, rage and PTSD. The account of Zamperini's reluctant encounter with evangelist Billy Graham,is touching and instructive, for it proved to be the event that allowed Louie to finally come to peace with his hatred of the worst of the Japanese guards, Mutsuhiro Watanabe, "The Bird," Louie was finally free of the haunting nightmares and his need to seek revenge.

As I was reading this book, one of my close friends saw the book in my hand and said: "This book changed my life!" The story of Louie Zamperini and his trials and tribulations is that inspiring.
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on June 30, 2016
This work of World War II non-fiction sticks with me even two years after reading it. The scenes, drama and people that populate the story were so vividly drawn that I can still recall the Japanese POW camp guard named the Bird. I grew terrified each time he arrived, as if I, not Luis Zamperini, would have to drum up the mental fortitude to survive his torture. Even now my heart-rate notches up a speck.

What can I say that hasn’t already been said by the many reviewers who loved this book? Well, it goes without saying that I highly recommend it: for anyone who loves WWII memoirs (or any memoir for that matter), for writers of non-fiction, and for those who enjoy stories of valor, defying the odds, and in-depth profiles. Hillenbrand is a master of detail. She researches the hell out of a story, and how she does it, I don’t know, but it makes for a compelling, highly believable read. Thank you, Laura.
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on March 5, 2017
This is one mans account of being a POW in Japan during World War II. The inside story of how men were so brutally treated. Then, if you survived, how it affected their life. But, it didn't end there. It tells how God can restore a broken life & heal the anger & bitterness he felt replacing it with personal peace. This book held my attention from beginning to end as it described this mans experience during the war & what him and so many of our soldiers had to endure. It was an eye opener.
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on June 2, 2014
[For a more detailed review, visit: anafichesdelectures(dot)wordpress(dot)com]

I don’t know where to begin but I can tell you with certainty that this is the best memoir I have read this year. It was hilarious, epic, wretching, haunting, powerful, profound, unbelievable, informative account. This has been the first account I have read on Japan’s concentration camp. I have always read WWII related novels focused on Europe and on the Holocaust. I had forgotten that United States was fighting a second war against Japan. Also, it daunted me to realize how long it would take for the prisoners of these concentration camps to be liberated. Despite WWII ending in Europe on May 1945, Japan refused to stop war. Japan was just adamant to do so. The author mentioned her position about the atomic bombs and after reading this account, I must agree. I am not convinced either that without the incidents at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the war would have ended. It is very sad to say so and we all hope it never repeats.

Reading this book, I learned how insane, brutal Japanese officers could be. It was just horrendous.The author really did a terrific job explaining everything on that end and even the different airplanes used at that time. In addition, very detailed statistic of the common medical conditions and postwar lifestyle challenges of “pacific POWs” [loc # 5564] were well presented. Finally, it makes you appreciate your life and makes you wonder why Louie Zamperini went through what he went through.

“For these men, nothing was ever going to be the same.”

Hillenbrand, Laura (2010­11­16). Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption (Kindle Location 5560). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

This novel was a gifted story after struggling to find a good book to read. I really recommend it. You won’t regret it.
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on February 6, 2014
Knowing Mr. Louis Zamperini - the Unbroken subject of the book - would be speaking at a function I was to attend, I ordered so I would have details about his past. Unfortunately, the book-on-CD received several days later, but I listened very intently. An incredible account about the life of this gentle amazing, Unbroken man. BTW, he turned 97 on January 26, 2014, just two days after being interviewed.

Also, the reading by Edward Herrmann was amazing!
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on November 22, 2016
There were 2 reasons why I was hesitant to read this book when it was chosen as a read for our bookclub last summer. To my shame, I labor with non-fiction however well crafted and have always preferred a good mystery or fantasy novel to anything historical or biographical.

Second, I admit to a phobia for anything dealing with imprisonment or confined captivity. I rarely watch movies that feature prison stories ... The 'Green Mile' and 'Papillon', and even 'The Great Escape' were tough watches. I squirm and fret as if I was the one confined.

But I could not be more glad that I turned every page. The story of Louis Zamperini is lovingly and respectfully recounted in an engaging and page-turning way by Laura Hillenbrand. It is a story of determined and resolute courage in the face of unspeakable cruelty and hardship. But more it is the story of a remarkable and inspiring forgiveness and mercy toward those who might least deserve it.

If you imagine there is little that is redeemable in society, or that our world is more broken than whole, 'Unbroken' is certain to restore your faith in what is good and noble in men.
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on December 22, 2014
Oh! This book!! So many feels!

The gun cracked, the men rushed forward, and the race was on. Lash bounded to the lead, with Bright in close pursuit. Louie dropped back, and the field settled in for the grind.

The beginning of the book was quite dramatic. I loved Louie from the start. He wasn’t perfect but sadly he was hurting people. Once he realized this he knew he had to stop and change his ways, but how!? His brother Pete and his family was a great influence. Family is always an influence whether we see it so plainly or not. In the case of Louie they were a good, a very good influence. I also loved his mother, although it was Pete that really pushed him to find the greatness within.

A photographer climved inside the plane and snapped a picture. Taken in daylight in the dark of the plane’s interior, the image showed shafts of light streaming through the holes, a shower of stars against a black sky.

With all of the drama at the beginning I was dreading reaching the point of his captivity but with such poignant writing I couldn’t help but race through the book. His military days were fantastic and I could feel myself living vicariously through his happy days. I wanted to meet the people he met, go on the trips he went on, and enjoy life as much as he did! At least until…

Nobody’s going to live through this.

22% into the book and it starts getting deep. Really deep. I started to feel myself being afraid for his life, wondering how he was going to survive. He kept many journals so there wasn’t a guarantee (unlike my hubby who knew about Louie Zamborini, I had not heard of him) that he was going to live. I wanted to avert my eyes, stop reading, anything to forgo re-living the traumatic events that led to his capture. And they are TRAUMATIC! But I could not help myself. The more dramatic the events the more I wanted to rush through the story and learn his fate.

On a side note… never, EVER ask yourself

After a plane crash, Louie replied, what more bad luck could they have?

More about the actual writing, although the story was tremendously heavy and amazing and nearly unbelievable, the writing was exceptional. I do not think I could have gotten through this much horror without such exquisite writing. It was lyrical in parts and very deep in others and even had a slight spirituality in certain areas.

The fight for this place had ripped the jungle off of the island.

In short: This is an epic battle with not only outside sources, there are many, but also with his own spirit. This will leave you stunned but it is major food for thought. This is definitely a must read and I cannot wait to see the upcoming movie!
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on September 3, 2014
Spoiler Alert)
A compelling story that is hard to put down and then stays in your head long afterwards. Louie Zamperini had a difficult time growing up until his brother stepped in and took charge of his life. As a petty thief, Louie sure could run. His brother, using this natural talent, got him interested in running. Louie broke records in high school and college (USC) and finally qualified for the U.S. Olympic team to participate in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany. He competed against world renown runners in his events, not winning, but surely, a tough competitor who was quickly recognized by the world - Adolph Hitler even shook his hand after the event.

The 1940 Olympics were canceled because of World War II and Louie's hopes of winning events that year vanished. He served in the Army as a bombardier on a B-24 bomber in the Pacific War Theater. Louie witnessed the death of crew mates and friends during air battles and miraculously makes it back to base - shocking others because the plane was in such bad shape and flying on fumes. Later, Louie and crew are ordered on a search mission, which is flown in a rickety back-up B-24, the plane falls apart after two hours into the flight and crashes into the Pacific, Only Louie and two others survive from a crew of nine. The survivors spend the next 47 terrifying days floating on the Pacific - guided by the current - circled by large sharks - unseen by those overhead who are searching for them.

They are eventually rescued from their floating prison by the Japanese and moved to prison camps; where they are forced into slavery, beaten, starved and tortured, The author points out that POW's on the Atlantic front suffered roughly 1% of the prisoners dying during captivity...in the Pacific theater, 37% died or were outright murdered during captivity. It was a time filled with terror and no hope...afterwards making it difficult for one to understand how anyone survived these horrendous conditions.

After the war, Louie and the vast majority of other POW's turned to booze to help fight the nightly demons which visited them daily in nightmares. His celebrity status pursues him during peace time, awards are bestowed, speaking engagements schedules - lines are long, citizens who want to hear of his exploits during the war. However, the booze eventually ruins everything for him, including his marriage. Suffice to say, his wife begs him to visit San Francisco to listen to Billy Graham one day, On the seccond visit, Louie finds God again and turns his life around.

I can't say enough good things about "Unbroken,,," It is truly a story of survival, Resilience, and Redemption - demonstrating that where there is a will - there is a way! Kudos to Ms. Hillenbrand for bringing this hero's story to life. I, too, can't wait for the movie at the end of this year. As for Mr. Zamperini - I call to attention and slowly execute a hand salute to you sir. May you rest in peace!

John Podlaski, author
Cherries - A Vietnam War Novel
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on January 22, 2017
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, follows the life of Louie Zamperini and his struggle to survive the war. Louie is a benevolent young man with multifarious skills who sticks to his roots, even in the face of the enemy Japanese: “The Bird tried to knock Louie down; Louie wouldn’t fall” (181). He never gives up and always tries to be hopeful that he will make it home. Phil, who is one of Louie good army friends who also accompanies him throughout most of the War, is a loving man, and he doesn’t ask for trouble: “[…] he was so quiet he could be in a room for hours before anyone noticed him” (51). The main conflict of Unbroken is clearly the war with the Japanese and Americans. The war is the external conflict that leads Louie and countless others to end up lost at sea. The deep animosity the Japanese feel towards the Americans almost pushes Louie to the point of death several times. They beat him, starve him, and force him to exercise when we is extremely malnourished. The internal conflict that troubles Louie, is his struggle to survive. He is kept inside a cell almost all day and when he is not, he is tormented and forced to dance for rice on Kwajalein Island. At Ofuna guards fart in his cell. All throughout his time being held by the Japanese, they try to take his humanity and self-worth. One important plot event would be when Louie and his team on the Green Hornet crashed into the ocean after the plane’s engines failed. Louie nearly drowned as the plane dragged him deeper and deeper to his death. When he emerged, he saw only two other men. Another plot event important to the story was when The Bird forced Louie to hold a heavy wooden beam over his head. The Bird ordered a guard to hit Louie with his gun if he lowered the beam. Louie kept that beam over his head for an entire half hour keeping one thing in mind: “He cannot break me” (213).
One of my favorite parts of the book was when Louie and his crew worked together perfectly while battling Japanese on Super Man. This part of the book shows us how strong these military men really are. For example when Pillsbury’s leg has been shot while fighting a Zero he ignored the wound and continued his job. This book is also very captivating. For example when Louie was at Kwajalein Island, each day I wondered whether or not he wound die by the demeaning Japanese and their cruel forms of torture. But my favorite part of Unbroken is when The Bird forced every enlisted man to punch Louie and several other men in the face. Every time, even when he was knocked down, he got back up, just to be punched again. Louie would not let them win and he has inspired everyone who has this book to never be broken. I would most definitely recommend this book for its action and inspiration that it delivers the reader.
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on January 3, 2016
Hillenbrand knows how to write, and the story she has chosen is a good one. There is plenty of detail, and she weaves in not only the main subject (Louis Zamperini) but also the various family members and others who were part of the fabric of his story.
One question bothered me: she mentions 5,000 Koreans having been massacred by the Japanese on Tinian because the capture of the island by the Americans was imminent. But according to various sources, there were only 2,700 Koreans on the island at the time. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tinian).
Then there is this article from the New York Times, 1945: "ADVANCED HEADQUARTERS, Pacific Ocean Areas, Feb. 4--After only a few months' experience with United States rule contrasted with a lifetime under the Japanese, 2,400 Koreans living on Tinian Island in the Marianas, which was taken over by us last summer, have contributed $666.35 from their earnings to the furtherance of the American war effort and defeat of the Japanese."
So, at least 2,400 Koreans still living on Tinian, and no mention of a massacre (which surely would have been in the paper due to the fact that the war was still on and anti-Japanese feeling was running high), and far fewer than 5,000 Koreans living on the island in the first place. (I also have read a lot of Japanese history and Korean history, and spent several years working in Korea--and although I heard and saw plenty of anti-Japanese propaganda, I never heard of the alleged massacre. I researched it online after seeing it in the book, because I wondered how I could have missed something so noteworthy.)
Very thorough research papers on Japanese massacres (such as hawaii dot edu slash powerkills slash SOD dot CHAP3 dot HTM) fail to mention Tinian at all (although Saipan is mentioned).
My point is: if this alleged incident is reported this inaccurately--or perhaps entirely fictitious--are there other inaccuracies?
At any rate, the book kept me enthralled from start to finish, and it is truly inspirational. And I don't think that an error or two in something of this scope is critical.
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