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57 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First class read.
This is a fantastic book, one of the most entertaining I've read in years. It's a biography of Louis Zamperini who, judging by the number of schools and airports named after him in the US, is a rather famous individual.

Most British readers, myself included, will not have heard of him. Don't let that put you off though, as Zamperini is one of those individuals...
Published on 26 Jan 2011 by Arheddis Varkenjaab

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great story, average author!
An epic tale of a truly inspirational legend of our time.
My average rating comes not from the the story line or topic but one of the writing itself, it's very easy almost simplistic. Sometimes the writing is as captivating as the content and one is absorbed entirely, alas not so with Laura Hillenbrand.
But I would of course recommend Unbroken, what a man!
Published on 23 Mar 2011 by IB45


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57 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First class read., 26 Jan 2011
This review is from: Unbroken (Hardcover)
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This is a fantastic book, one of the most entertaining I've read in years. It's a biography of Louis Zamperini who, judging by the number of schools and airports named after him in the US, is a rather famous individual.

Most British readers, myself included, will not have heard of him. Don't let that put you off though, as Zamperini is one of those individuals who has led both a charmed, lucky, and fascinating life.

We start with his youth, where despite the book making light of his mischief, he was a thug and a thief, destined for a life of dodging the police and jail. He is saved by discovering he has a talent for running. Inspired by his slightly more cunning brother (who is just as much a tearaway as Louis but has the charm to get away with it) he finds himself at the Berlin olympics, running in front of Hitler. His natural talent has him on the verge of a four-minute mile and he appears certain for gold at the 1940 games. Instead, Louis finds himself over the Pacific, manning the bombsight of a B24 bomber, and ultimately fighting for survival in a canvas raft in the middle of the ocean.

And this is just the start of his adventures! Louis Zamperini, as well as being talented, lucky, and brave, is revealed to be pretty much indestructible. I won't summarise any more of the story, as it would spoil it, but this is a great book. A real page turner, written with a wonderfully engaging style that will keep you awake to find out what happens next.

Absolutely first class, highly recommended.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary wartime testament of human endurance, 4 Feb 2011
By 
J. Aitken (Glasgow Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Unbroken (Hardcover)
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Half way through Laura Hillenbrand's meticulously researched account of Louie Zamperini's war time experiences, I thought that the truth was so painful to read and almost impossible to credit that I could hardly believe that one man could endure the terrible deprivations forced him by the elements and subsequently by the awful cruelties endemic in being a Japanese Prisoner of War.That Louie Zamperini did was due to his indomitable spirit, his steely resolve and to what some might call pure luck.

This is one of the finest and most moving of wartime tales and Laura Hillenbrand recounts it with honesty and diligence. Readers will be amazed by Zamperini's ingenuity in adversity and his ability to survive against almost insurmountable odds. Hillenbrand does not shirk in her descriptions and is also most telling in her depiction of what is now called PTSD ( Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.) The war may have ended for these men, but for some, the terrors of what they had endured never left them.

This was an engrossing read and I recommend it highly to anyone with an interest in the second world war and its terrible human cost.
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting story - glorious ending, 21 Feb 2011
By 
Mark Loughridge (Letterkenny, Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Unbroken (Hardcover)
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Stunning. That sums this book up in a word.

I had read a brief summary of Louis Zamperini's life in Don Stephens' excellent book War and Grace and was fascinated to see a much longer version. I wasn't disappointed.

Some authors struggle when they are faced with a welter of facts, details, interviews - they either smother you with them, thus losing the storyline, or they ignore them, thus depriving the story of colour, depth and character. Laura Hillenbrand has mastered her homework without it mastering her. She strikes a perfect balance, and delivers an engrossing, engaging read.

From Zamperini's early days as a tearaway, to his success as an athlete, through his American Air Force career, to the POW camps in Japan, to his return from the 'grave', to his even more amazing transformation by God's grace - all is superbly told. It is hard to find a point at which to put the book down.

The story captures the horror of air combat, the sickening losses even before combat, the sheer awfulness of the POW camps and the trauma the men faced on returning to 'normal' life. The characters are very real, their fear, courage, humanity, anger, bitterness are all displayed, rather than hyped up or hidden away. One of the aspects I liked was the balance in which the Japanese camp officials were portrayed - some brutal and sadistic, but some deeply courageous and humane. It would have been easy to create a one sided impression.

But for me the absolute highlight is found in the closing chapters. I dont think a review would be complete without mentioning them - But STOP HERE if you dont want to know the ending!

I think it would be a fair reflection to say that the title is slightly inaccurate. Louis Zamperini was eventually broken, he may have survived the camps, but he wasnt surviving the aftermath; he was unraveling at a tremendous rate. Yet it is in this context that this broken man finds himself being remade, set free by a power much greater than his own rugged determination.

It put me in mind of a verse in the Bible - "If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come." 2 Corinthians 5:17

As such, this book is more than an inspiring story, it is one which holds out hope to everyone.

It was refreshing to see a Christian story being treated by an author whose religious leanings I know nothing about, in away that does justice to the impact of God's work in Louis' life. Full marks Laura Hillenbrand.

This book is a perfect read for virtually anyone - even if you aren't drawn to war stories, or Christian biography, I suspect that you will find yourself engrossed in this captivating tale of a struggle for survival and much more.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An astonishing and totally gripping read., 1 Feb 2011
By 
Caroline P. (Milton Keynes, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Unbroken (Hardcover)
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I admit I approached this book with a certain amount of trepidation. I wondered how you could write a book about someone spending weeks on a raft and yet keep it interesting? It turns out that there is so much more to Louie Zamperini's story than that, although I don't want to give too much away.

This is a man I suspect very few Brits will have heard of. And yet his story is utterly astonishing and completely riveting. This was a very hard book to put down and I read it very quickly.

I love the way the author has told this story. No lantern-jawed heroes, fearing nothing, in these pages. Rather, very genuine and very honest, flesh-and-blood people - scared to death at times, traumatised by what has happened to them. The real deal. People like you and me who yet find within themselves a courage to endure that is so astounding, so amazing that you are left in awe. Which is how it should be. Still, I think she did take a certain lick of gloss to Louie's youth and I was left a little curious, suspecting more 'behind the scenes'. But that is a very, very small point and this is someone who earned redemption. This was, ultimately, a man unbroken by what happened to him - but who came, many times, very very close to being destroyed by it.

Ms Hillenbrand is an excellent author and this is a brilliant tale. I cannot recommend it highly enough and I'll certainly be looking out for other books she has written. You won't regret buying this book, I'm certain
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One hell of a story, one hell of a man..., 15 Feb 2012
By 
C. Ball (Derbyshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Unbroken (Paperback)
Laura Hillenbrand's first book Seabiscuit is one of my favourite reads; I've read it multiple times, which is unusual for me for a non-fiction book. But she is such a wonderful storyteller and her books are as readable as fiction - and this one is no exception.

I couldn't put this down. I started it one day, finished it the next - and that was with working full-time in-between. I have no doubt that someone somewhere is planning the film version of this, because, well, what a story! What a life! From juvenile delinquent to Olympic runner, from Air Force bombardier to castaway, from Japanese prisoner-of-war to inspirational speaker, from officially dead to most definitely alive, Louis Zamperini's story is so incredible you can hardly believe it's true.

Hillenbrand's account of Zamperini's two and a half years in a Japanese prisoner of war is so harrowing it's hard to read, but if Zamperini and men like him survived it then the very least we can do is read about it, learn from it, never forget it. This is an incredible story, tremendously moving and uplifting, and Louis Zamperini - still alive! - is one hell of a man.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great story, average author!, 23 Mar 2011
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This review is from: Unbroken (Hardcover)
An epic tale of a truly inspirational legend of our time.
My average rating comes not from the the story line or topic but one of the writing itself, it's very easy almost simplistic. Sometimes the writing is as captivating as the content and one is absorbed entirely, alas not so with Laura Hillenbrand.
But I would of course recommend Unbroken, what a man!
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unbroken., 14 Dec 2010
I couldn't stop reading until I got to the end at 6:00am. My first "all-nighter" in years. This book is not only well written but reveals a historical time no longer part of our education system. Louie, is amazing. I will read this book again to make sure I get the facts right. This book will change or reinforce your opinion of the Japanese during WWII.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An endurance event and the road to forgiveness, 9 Aug 2012
This review is from: Unbroken (Paperback)
Unbroken is so many stories rolled into one. You could say that it is a story about a young Italian-American tearaway who is redeemed by sporting success. Louie Zamperini is a young hooligan who discovers a talent for middle distance running and this talent takes him as far as the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Zamperini becomes a rising sporting star aiming for the then unbroken 4 minute mile. Like many sportsmen of his generation his career is interrupted by the outbreak of World War Two; Zamperini presently finds himself conscripted into the USAF as a bomb aimer aboard a B-24 bomber based in the Pacific.

Following a successful raid on Wake, Zamperini's luck takes a turn for the worst when his rickety replacement plane, the Green Hornet, ditches in the middle of the Japanese controlled Pacific. The three surviving crew-men begin a harrowing journey for survival aboard a disintegrating raft. Initially their goal is merely to stay alive as long as Eddie Rickenbacker, the former WW1 ace, who in 1942 survived for 24 days in the Pacific before reaching safety. Forced to eat inedible seabirds that alight on their raft and kept alive by an occasional rain shower, Zamperini and his crew mates achieve an incredible feat of survival.

Unbelievably, this is only part of their extraordinary story: deliverance from the sea proves to be something of a mixed blessing...to say the least! Louie then gets caught up in another traumatic episode and he is called upon again to summon up superhuman strength in order to survive yet another ordeal. With the ending of World War Two Zamperini's life turns into a search for salvation and forgiveness towards those who have harmed him.

This really is an extraordinary book and unless you have read it you will not believe that one man could have endured so much.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seven hundred silent men, 25 Mar 2012
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
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The story of the life of Louie Zamperini, track athlete at the Berlin Olympic Games, is truly extraordinary. A young American airman whose plane was downed in the Pacific, with just two other survivers, his friend the Pilot, Allen Phillips, and Francis MacNamara, a new member of the crew. All three were to end up sharing a one-man raft and one of the men was not strong enough to survive. The other two were to hang on for 34 days, catching fish and storing rain water, constantly surrounded by circling sharks, before being taken up on a Japanese boat just off the Gilbert Islands. But that was only the beginning.

The treatment for which Zamperini was particularly singled out at the hands of a sadistic and vicious guard, christened The Bird by the POWs, was to bring him close to madness and have a horrendous effect on him lasting until long after the war. To take the edge off the memories he turned to drink, but later he found Evangelistic Christian, Billy Graham, and remembered pledges he'd made to God while drifting across two-thousand miles towards land. The post-war search for The Bird, or Mutsuhiro Watanabe, Zamperini's torturer, is also related.

This is such a well-written book; the pages really fly by (398pp, excluding notes and the epilogue). The research must have been difficult to say the least, yet it never reads like something mired in history. The people caught up in the story include other heroes (as well as villains), on both sides, but it is Zamperini's life story and the cruelties meted out to him and others that grips the imagination (often against one's will). Much of it is taken from diaries that he wrote over the period of his incarceration and kept hidden. It will shock and alienate some readers, but there is much more to admire, especially in Zamperini's courageous and valiant resistance.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unbelievable!, 12 Feb 2011
By 
Mr. S. Miller "Page Turner" (Glasgow, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Unbroken (Hardcover)
Not literally unbelievable of course, but that will be your reaction as you read of Zamperini's odyssey. It makes for a compelling read. As we saw with "Seabiscuit" Hillenbrand excels at this type of biography. It is true there are a handful of passages which hint, as others have said, that it's over-researched, but there are many moments which leave a lasting impression. I do suggest that to maximise that impact you read as little as possible in advance of reading the book, even avoid the book-jacket itself - just let it unfold and prepare to be left awe-struck.
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Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
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