Review: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Title:  Unbroken:  A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
Author:  Laura Hillenbrand
Series:  None
Publisher:  Random House
Publication Date:  November 16, 2010
Pages:  633 + Notes, Index, etc. (Large Print Edition)
Format/Source:  Paperback Large Print Edition/Borrowed from Library

Age Group/Genre:  Adult/Non-Fiction, Biography

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. In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.
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.
In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit. 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. (From Goodreads)

A Bit of Hesitation…

This book was chosen by one of the girls in my book club as our March selection.  I was pretty hesitant at first, because I normally DO NOT read Non-Fiction.  Most of the Non-Fiction I’ve ever read was in school, and I don’t remember liking many of them very much (with the exception of The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank and Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich).  Oh, and I read Night by Elie Wiesel last year and it was horrific but definitely a must-read.  But I mostly enjoy reading fiction, and in the past couple of years, I mainly enjoy reading Young Adult fiction.  So I was worried that this book would be capital-B Boring.  It was also a pretty hefty book, although at least 100 pages were of the author’s notes and the index, etc.  I knew I was going to try to read it, but I was going into it with extremely low expectations.

I ended up having to get the Large Print edition from my library, and I was shocked to find that, excluding the acknowledgments, notes, and index, this book was a whopping 633 pages.  Well, the Large Print edition was.  And since I got this book a week before my book club was supposed to meet and discuss the book, I knew that I’d have to read about 100 pages a day to get it finished.  This is doable for me, but only if I really focus on reading and keep other activities to a minimum.  I’m a pretty slow reader, so I knew I would have to focus and be vigilant.  (Anyone else out there think of Mad-Eye Moody every time you see the word “vigilant”?  Surely I can’t be the only one.  Constant Vigilance!  Anyway…)  And I still wasn’t sure that this book was going to keep me interested enough to finish. 

And here’s the deal – my book club has been meeting now for 2 years and I have read EVERY SINGLE BOOK.  Everyone else has missed one or two, or just couldn’t finish some by the time the meeting rolled around, but I have finished each of them.  I don’t think of it as a competition between the girls in my book club – I know that sometimes these things happen and it’s cool with me that they can’t finish or whatever.  But since I’ve kept this up for so long it’s become a kind of competition with myself – I don’t want to break my streak!  But I thought that this book just might do me in.

What a Life…

Boy, was I wrong.  My perception of this book was immediately changed right in the preface to the book.  This guy, Louis Zamperini (and two other soldiers), was on a raft for 47 DAYS with no food, no fresh water, sharks swimming underneath him non-stop, Japanese planes shooting at him, all while he was 26 years old!  And that’s only one part of this story of his life!

I found the whole book to be extremely intriguing and often thrilling.  Louie Zamperini’s life was so interesting, right from the start.  He was a rambunctious child, and as a young teen was the town’s shoplifter.  He then channeled his energy into running, and went to the 1936 Olympics in Germany.  And then he became a bombardier in the Army Air Force during World War II.

Seriously, this guy’s life is so much more interesting than anyone I’ve ever heard of.  And the thing is – when his plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean in 1943, it wasn’t even engaged in combat.  They were on a rescue mission, trying to find another plane that had disappeared the day before.

I don’t want to spoil anyone who’s thinking about reading this book, but there is so much more to this book that will keep you turning the pages and staying up way too late.  I had absolutely no problem reading this book in the days before my book club meeting, and so my streak lives on!

My rating for Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand:

Five HUGE stars.  I would recommend this to ANYONE, especially if you like Non-Fiction, Biographies, or stories about World War II.  This book has totally changed my outlook on biographies, and non-fiction books in general.

Find it:  Goodreads │ Amazon │ Random House
Disclaimer:  I borrowed a copy of this book from my library, and although it was a pick for my book club, I was in no way compensated for this review.


  1. Bittner

    April 28, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    I agree with you, his life was amazing and the book was extremely well written. I also thought it was incredible that the part of the story that most people talk about (the plain crash) was within the first half of the book, so much happened to him afterward! He was extraordinary!

    1. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      April 29, 2012 at 3:39 am

      Yeah, such a crazy interesting life! And a great book!

  2. mariska

    April 28, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    What a review! I never read this book but it sounds a book that you should read.
    Thanks for this review :D


    1. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      April 29, 2012 at 3:40 am

      Thanks! I realize now that I really didn't mention the author and her writing style. She did a great job with this book, and she's also the author of Seabiscuit, which I've heard is a great book as well. But yeah, Unbroken is definitely one to read!

  3. Kate@Midnight Book Girl

    April 29, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    Normally I am like you in the non-fiction department, but the fact that you and Bittner loved it proves that I need to give this book a try!

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