(Capsule) Book Review — Unbroken

Our Editor-in-Chief mentioned that he will be doing a series of “capsule” book reviews.

Joe Gandelman’s reason for such is the backlog of books and DVDs that need to be reviewed.

Apparently Joe is an avid and fast reader.

Probably as a consequence of years of painstaking technical writing and reading, I have become a very s l o w reader. By “slow” I mean that it sometimes takes me months to finish a book.

Having said this, perhaps the biggest tribute I can give a book is the fact that I finish it in just a few days.

This is the case for the magnificent, gripping, mesmerizing, can-not-put-it-down Unbroken. (Full title: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.)

(Of course, there are many more adjectives I could use, because, as a New York review says, “[This] one-in-a-billion story…seems designed to wrench from self-respecting critics all the blurby adjectives we normally try to avoid: It is amazing, unforgettable, gripping, harrowing, chilling sand inspiring.”)

While there are numerous rave reviews and praises for this book, such as New York’s one above, I believe that Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run says it best: “Unbroken is too much of a book to hope for: a hell ride of a story in the grip of the one writer who can handle it.”

And the one writer who so magnificently handled this true World War II story of heroism and sacrifice — truly one of the most magnificent war stories — is none other than #1 New York Times bestselling author Laura Hillenbrand.

So what is this great book all about, you ask.

Unbroken is the true story of Louis Zamperini, a young American runner who came “within sight” of the four-minute mile at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, who hopes to do exactly that — run the four-minute mile — at the 1940 Tokyo Olympics, but whose plans and dreams are dramatically changed when the U.S. enters World War II and Zamperini becomes a B-24 bombardier in the Pacific theater.

The true story of “survival, resilience and redemption” that evolves after Zamperini’s “Green Hornet” crashes in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean and which continues after Zamperini is eventually — after miraculously surviving for 46 days on an about-to-sink canvas and rubber raft — captured by the Japanese to endure unspeakable atrocities but also to become a “testament to the resilience of the human mind, body and spirit,” is all told in meticulous and heart-rending detail by one of America’s best narrative history writers.

The last paragraph is a rather large “capsule,” thus I should stop now, but not before saying, “Get Unbroken, read it — devour it.”

Image: Courtesy Amazon.com

Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist