Read this book! Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

November 3, 2011 at 8:18 am Leave a comment

UnbrokenI consider myself to be a fairly typical Gen-Xer when it comes to my knowledge of history.  I know about the atrocities performed in Germany in the 1930’s and 40’s.  I also knew (somewhat vaguely) about our fight against Japan during that same war.  I’ve never really thought much about it, however.  I mean, the war ended 30 years before I was born, so it didn’t really matter to me, did it?

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand is the story of the POW camps in Japan during WWII.  Specifically, the story follows Louie Zamperini, a California kid who was an Olympic runner.  When he was 18, Zamperini competed in the Berlin games of 1936, where he participated in the 5,000 meter run.  His real distance was the mile, and he was considered to have the best shot at breaking the 4-minute-mile time first.

But the war came calling, and Zamperini was drafted into the Army Air Forces.  He became a bombardier on a B-24, and was scheduled for 40 missions over the Pacific in the war against the Japanese.  On a mission to locate a downed American plane, Zamperini’s plane was shot down.  His subsequent journey takes him over 2,000 miles, into the hands of the Japanese at several POW camps.  During his 2+ years of imprisonment, he is subjected to indignities and cruelties meant to destroy spirits and break men.

The book is historical non-fiction, but it reads like a novel.  Hillenbrand is also the author of Seabiscuit, for which she won several awards.  Her writing is a primer for how journalistic non-fiction should read.  The book paints a very clear picture of both the atrocities and the wonderful things that men are capable of during war.  It also takes a look at post-war psychology, examining the effect that WWII had on the men who served.

Great read, for historical buffs and non-buffs alike.  I highly recommend.

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