Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Audiobook Review: Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand @laurahillenbran

Oh my gosh, what a book! I have to be honest -- it took me a LONG time to settle into Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. But also let me tell you -- for anyone who is interested AT ALL in the history of WWII, and specifically the war in the Pacific, this is a must read.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption is the  true story of Louis Zamperini, a WWII veteran, whose plane crashed into the Pacific. We learn that bit of info in the prologue, so I'm not giving anything away. I will tell you that the crash happens somewhere before the half-way point in the book, so there's a lot more to the story. What an incredible tale.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption begins with Louis' childhood, and doesn't end until....well, the end. Basically, it covers his entire life. In painstaking detail. Louis participated in the Olympics as a runner in 1936, and was a hopeful for the 1940 Olympics, which never happened because of the war. The entire story is interesting. Louis was a devil child and was transformed when he realized he was a natural runner.

But let's talk about my difficulty with Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. I really hated the third person narrative style. The narrator is omniscient, and there is absolutely no dialog. I felt like the story was a news report. I kept waiting for the introduction to be over, so the story could start. You know, the dialog and direct relationships among the characters. This never happens. Everything that happens is "reported."

However, I suddenly found myself mesmerized by the story. I got involved in Louis' life, despite the point of view. Once I got past my frustration and realized that this was the book, and it was a best seller, and I was going to endure it -- I loved it.

There are a lot of characters, and a lot of side stories about these characters, and Hillenbrand makes it all make sense. I was never confused. I thought the "organization" of the story was brilliant, given that this is a very complicated story with lots of details. I can't imagine the time and dedication it takes to write a story like Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.

The story itself is literally unbelievable. If this were fiction, I would say the author went over the top. This is too far-fetched to buy into. The survival instincts in these men were so strong. I have not one doubt that I would have given up if I were in this situation. I can't even imagine what it takes inside a person to survive the utter decimation of the physical body. I had always heard that the Japanese were cruel. Hillenbrand does a great job in discussing the culture and background that made this army behave the way they did, although it doesn't make it easier to read about it. You may need to take some breaks from your reading at times. Essentially, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption is a story of the triumph of the human spirit; I can't think of any better example of literature with this theme.

The audiobook was narrated by Edward Herrmann (yes, the actor) and he's the perfect voice for this narrative style. Like I said, much like a reporter, but he did add more emotion and enough nuance to keep my interest. 

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption is a long book, at about 500 pages, but as I said, this is at the top of my list now for historical fiction recommendations. 

Published by Random House, 2010 (audiobook by Random House Audio)
Copy obtained from the library
496 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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  1. I read this book a year or so ago and still think about it. His story is pretty amazing and I felt like I learned so much about a side of WWII that isn't told very often.

  2. I love well narrated audio-books and this sounds like a great book. Super review, Annette :)

  3. I read this book about a year ago for my book club. I found the book hard to get into as well - a book that I wasn't always racing to read, but one that once I did sit down, I got lost in. I thought it was eye-opening and inspirational. Although I do agree with you that if this had been a work of fiction, I'd think the author went too far. In the beginning, I found myself thinking that if Louis had been my child, he might not have made it to age 10! :) Wonderful review...thanks!

  4. Finally got a chance to read this one. It's always checked out at my library and now I know why. It's an incredible, stranger than fiction story. I, too, had a hard time to get into the story. It took me about halfway and then I got sucked in. I had to put it down with those torture scenes other than that it moved quickly.

  5. Unbroken has been chosen this year by our local libraries in the Durham REgion as our 'Pass the Book' title. This is a title we chose that we encourage as many people as possible to read and recommend. I haven't heard anyone yet say they haven't enjoyed it.

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  7. I absolutely loved this book. The narrative didn't bother me at all. I wonder if it worked better on the page than on audio. Who knows. Definitely a depressing book in many ways but fascinating.


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