Wednesday, 13 February 2013

May 2011 - Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

This non fiction biography of WW2 hero Zamperini had to be our book clubs first clean sweep. We all really liked it! Zamperinis story is made different from other veteran bios due to the fact that Louis was an Olympian, and would most likely have been the first person to run the 4 minute mile, should the war have not happened.

It truly is a story of bravery, friendship, determination and heroism. At times absolutely heartbreaking but swiftly turning humorous. A page turner throughout, all of us eagerly wanted to know what happened to Louis, his friends and family. We have all known an older person who have lived through the war, and have likely bored us with their repetitive stories... If Louis was you Grandpa, you would never get bored of hearing this.

The book was also very well backed up with photos throughout, making it seem more real and certainly more interesting, making you feel as if you knew the people and places shown.

Laura Hillenbrand portrayed the characters very well, she went into great detail in interviews and research. Most of the members would have liked to get to know Louis a bit more, feeling that a lot of the time we only received facts about him, and not so much snippets of his personality, others disagreed, stating they felt they got to know him well. We all wanted to know more about most of the characters but understood that there is only so much that can be written about in one book  A great sign the real life people were adapted well into the story.

There was another character we would have liked to learn more about, that being the sadistic, Japanese, POW guard  The Bird. We all wanted to know if he ever felt any remorse, or why he acted the way he did. I few of the members would now like to read a book from the Japanese point of view on the war.

On the whole, as the story was based on real life events it was completely believable, especially the treatment of POWs. However a few members struggled with believing the whole story on the raft, for example the length of time, the way the men fought off the sharks in their weakened state. We thought this had either been over dramatised by Louis or by Hillenbrand in an attempt to make the book more adventurous. Also after the war, a few members struggled to believe how quickly Louis recovered from his post traumatic stress.

There were so many profound passages in the book, to name a few: The reality of POW treatment, when the men finally received the food drop - going from having nothing to having everything, Gaga the duck, the soldier who could have been killed by the Japanese pilot but instead got saluted and then made friends with him after the war, how Louis didn't give up his feelings for the Bird and the religious references.  

We all loved the ending, the epilogue tied up everything we wanted to know about the characters and we were all pleased to hear that Louis was and is still alive. Again we would have liked to hear more detail about a few people, and were sad to hear how some lives were after the war ended, but this was a book about Louis, and an excellent one at that.

Reading Unbroken has done enough for most of us to put Laura Hillenbrands first book Seabiscuit on our to be read list, we thought she is a brilliant author, simple but to the point, no waffle and does a lot of research which makes her stories very exciting. Well all certainly keep an eye out for any new releases from her.

As this was a clean sweep, the book is our highest ever scorer, nine members turned up giving us an average score of 8.1 out of 10. Our highest score was 9 and our lowest was 7!

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