Just as she demonstrated in Seabiscuit, Ms. Hillenbrand is a muscular, dynamic storyteller…Her command of the action-adventure idiom is more than enough to hold interest. But she happens also to have located a tale full of unforgettable characters, multi-hanky moments and wild turns. And if some of it sounds too much like pulp fiction to be true, Ms. Hillenbrand has also done a bang-up research job.... [Unbroken] manages to be as exultant as Seabiscuit as it tells a much more harrowing, less heart-warming story.
Janet Maslin - New York Times
Unbroken is wonderful twice over, for the tale it tells and for the way it’s told. A better book than Seabiscuit, it manages maximum velocity with no loss of subtlety. [Hillenbrand has] a jeweler’s eye for a detail that makes a story live.
A warning: after cracking open Unbroken you may find yourself dog tired the next day, having spent most of the night fending off sleep with coffee refills, eager to find out whether the story of Louis Zamperini, Olympic runner turned WWII POW, ends in redemption or despair..In Hillenbrand’s [hands], it’s nothing less than a marvel—a book worth losing sleep over.
Will you be able to put [Unbroken] down once you poke your nose into it? You will not.... No one delivers a play-by-play better than Laura Hillenbrand.... No other author of narrative nonfiction chooses her subjects with greater discrimination or renders them with more discipline and commitment. If storytelling were an Olympic event, she’d medal for sure.
Laura Miller - Salon
(Starred review.) From the 1936 Olympics to WWII Japan's most brutal POW camps, Hillenbrand's heart-wrenching new book is thousands of miles and a world away from the racing circuit of her bestselling Seabiscuit. But it's just as much a page-turner, and its hero, Louie Zamperini, is just as loveable.... In May 1943 his B-24 crashed into the Pacific. After a record-breaking 47 days adrift on a shark-encircled life raft with his pal and pilot, Russell Allen "Phil" Phillips, they were captured by the Japanese. In the "theater of cruelty" that was the Japanese POW camp network, Louie landed in the cruelest theaters of all: Omori and Naoetsu, under the control of Corp. Mutsuhiro Watanabe, a pathologically brutal sadist (called the Bird by camp inmates) who never killed his victims outright—his pleasure came from their slow, unending torment.... And Louie, with his defiant and unbreakable spirit, was Watanabe's victim of choice. By war's end, Louie was near death. When Naoetsu was liberated in mid-August 1945, a depleted Louie's only thought was "I'm free!"... But as Hillenbrand shows, Louie was not yet free. [he was] haunted in his dreams, drinking to forget, and obsessed with vengeance. Hillenbrand...writes movingly of the thousands of postwar Pacific PTSD sufferers [who had] no help for their as yet unrecognized illness.... The book's final section is the story of how...Louie found his path. It is impossible to condense the rich, granular detail of Hillenbrand's narrative of the atrocities committed...against American POWs in Japan, and the courage of Louie and his fellow POWs.... Hillenbrand's triumph is that in telling Louie's story (he's now in his 90s), she tells the stories of thousands whose suffering has been mostly forgotten. She restores to our collective memory this tale of heroism, cruelty, life, death, joy, suffering, remorselessness, and redemption. —Sarah F. Gold
The author of Seabiscuit now brings us a biography of World War II prisoner of war survivor Louis Zamperini (b. 1917). A track athlete at the 1936 Munich Olympics, Zamperini became a B-24 crewman in the U.S. Army Air Force. When his plane went down in the Pacific in 1943, he spent 47 days in a life raft, then was picked up by a Japanese ship and survived starvation and torture in labor camps. Eventually repatriated, he had a spiritual rebirth and returned to Japan to promote forgiveness and healing. Because of the author's popularity, libraries will want this book both for general readers who like a good story and for World War II history buffs; however, it's not essential reading for those who read Zamperini's autobiography, Devil at My Heels, with David Rensin, in its 2003 edition.
[Hillenbrand’s] skills are as polished as ever, and like its predecessor, this book has an impossible-to-put-down quality that one commonly associates with good thrillers.
[Hillenbrand] returns with another dynamic, well-researched story of guts overcoming odds...Alternately stomach-wrenching, anger-arousing and spirit-lifting—and always gripping.
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