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Unbroken- a Reveiw

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Submitted By santoshshashi
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1. About the Book
(a) Title of the book : Unbroken - A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption (b) Author : Laura Hillenbrand (c) Year of publication : November 15, 2010 (d) Publisher : Random House. (e) No of pages : 473 Nos
(f) Type of book : A biography of World War II hero
(g) Other works of Author : Sea biscuit(An International Bestseller) (h) Price : $27
2. About the Author
(a) Laura Hillenbrand, born on 15 May 1967 in Fairfax, Virginia is an American author of books and magazine articles. Hillenbrand spent much of her childhood riding bareback "screaming over the hills" of her father's Sharpsburg, Maryland, farm. A favorite of hers was ‘Come On Seabiscuit’, a 1963 children book.
(b) Hillenbrand suffers from debilitating chronic fatigue syndrome, and remains largely confined to her home. On the irony of writing about physical paragons while being so incapacitated herself, She reportedly stated that she was looking for a way out of her dull home-bound life and she couldn’t have lived it physically, so she was going to have it intellectually. It was, therefore, an exhilarating experience for debilitated Hillenbrand to ride Seabiscuit in her imagination and it was just as fantastic to be there for her alongside Louie as he was breaking the NCAA mile record and with people at these historic moments in their lives – it was her way of living life vicariously.
(c) She studied at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, but was forced to leave before graduation at the tender age of 19 when she contracted Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which she has struggled with ever since. She now lives in Washington, D.C, and rarely leaves her house because of the condition. Hillenbrand married Borden Flanagan, a professor of Government at American University and her college friend, in 2008. -2-
(d) Hillenbrand's first book was the acclaimed Seabiscuit: An American Legend (2001), a non-fiction account of the career of the great racehorse Seabiscuit, for which she won the William Hill Sports Book of the Year in 2001. She stated later that she was compelled to tell the story because she found fascinating people living a story that was improbable, breathtaking and ultimately more satisfying than any story that she'd ever come across. She first told the story through an essay that she wrote for American Heritage magazine. The feedback being positive, she decided to proceed with a full non-fiction book. She received rave reviews on the book's release, for her storytelling and research. It was made into the Academy Award nominated film Seabiscuit (2003).
(e) LAURA Hillenbrand’s New Yorker article, “A Sudden Illness,” won the 2004 National Magazine Award, and she is a two-time winner of the Eclipse Award, the highest journalistic honor in thoroughbred racing. She and actor Gary Sinise are the co-founders of Operation International Children, a charity that provides school supplies to children through American troops.
3. Introduction
(a) Until now, never had one read of any account of the Japanese atrocities and the stories that were produced from that side of the war. ""Unbroken" is one of those stories that sheds light on some very dark days that seem to be overshadowed by other mega events of the war. "Unbroken" is the biography of Louie Zamperini, now 95. He is a former Olympic runner who became a bombardier with the air force after the start of the Second World War. During a mission, his plane crashed at sea, and he was eventually captured by the Japanese and spent the remainder of the war in Japanese PW camps.
(b) As this is the story of a real man, it was refreshing to read about his struggle to endure. There were times when he came very close to breaking, but there were always shreds of hope holding onto him, refusing to let go. Even if sometimes they were just shreds.
(c) Laura Hillenbrand spent over seven years meticulously researching this book, and the result is a spectacular, racy and unbelievable account of a man with indefatigable spirit and unshakeable self belief. The events flow together seamlessly, in a way that is exciting and puts one right in the middle of the action.

4. Plot & Synopsis.
(a) Louie Zamperini was a defiant boy whose path could very easily have led him to jail. Instead, at the persuasion of his older brother, he took to running. And he became a very good runner, so much so that he made the U.S. track team for the 1936 Berlin Olympics when he was barely 19.


(b) As war approached he enlisted in the Army Air Corps. Stationed in Hawaii, he was the bombardier on a rickety B-24 called the Green Hornet when in May 1943 it went down over the Pacific while searching for a missing plane. Of the 11 men on board, only three — Zamperini; the pilot, Russell Allen Phillips; and the tail gunner, Francis McNamara survived the crash.
(c) Quickly facing starvation, the men saved themselves by eating unwary albatrosses that used the raft as a perch and, with Zamperini tying improvised hooks to his hands to create a claw, by catching an occasional fish. They cut up fabric from a second raft to protect themselves from the scorching equatorial sun. Storms slaked their desperate thirst. Throughout, sharks floated expectantly alongside and beneath them, rubbing their backs against the raft and, sometimes, lunging up into it. The men beat them off with oars and even managed to kill a couple — and eat their livers. For nearly seven weeks. Zamperini and his friends managed to survive on a fragile raft. They traveled over 2,000 miles, only to land in a series of Japanese prison camps, where, for the next two years, Zamperini underwent a whole new set of tortures.
(d) Zamperini had a special status: as a former Olympian, he was a valuable propaganda tool, too precious to kill. But his celebrity also made him very tempting to torture. First in the Pacific and later in Japan, he was subjected to an unrelenting regime of assaults: humiliation, starvation, medical experiments, slave labor and disease. A succession of sadistic guards topped by a psychopathic sadist named Mutsuhiro Watanabe, a k a the Bird, derived a special, almost orgiastic pleasure from beating him.
5. Critical Analysis
(a) Zamperini joked to Hillenbrand that he’d be an easier subject for her than Seabiscuit because he could talk. But that also presents perils. Though his wartime experiences faded with time, talking about them was just all Zamperini did for years. From more than a thousand retellings, in newspaper and radio interviews and in inspirational speeches — “This Is Your Life” even devoted an episode to him — his story had been sanded down, and while Hillenbrand ably assembles its component parts, she rarely gets beneath the surface. That Zamperini does not seem especially introspective and may have forgotten or repressed certain memories only compounds the problem.
(b) On a number of small but dubious points she gives him a pass: Could a neighbor really have sewn back on a toe Zamperini severed during a childhood accident? Would a family so poor that it shot rabbits to feed the children also have owned a car? More seriously, she rarely forces him to reach within. “Unbroken” offered her an unusual chance to study and dissect a man who had undergone extreme duress. But virtually everything about Zamperini is filtered through her capable yet rather denatured voice, and we don’t really hear him. So, while a startling narrative and an inspirational book of a rather traditional sort, “Unbroken” is also a wasted opportunity to break new psychological ground.

(c) It is quite bizarre it note that someone with such access (she supposedly interviewed Zamperini 75 times) fell short in this fashion. Hillenbrand may have gotten too close to Zamperini. Writing, even about heroes, must to some degree be an adversarial process. At the same time, paradoxically, she may not have gotten close enough. As she acknowledges, because of illness, Hillen¬brand is largely confined to her home. Judging from her citations, she spoke to Zamperini almost entirely by phone, and as any reporter will tell you, it just is not the same. That said, to have written something so ambitious and powerful under such trying circumstances is an act of courage even a Louis Zamperini would admire.
(d) The author of “Seabiscuit”,(the story of a very different, and far less important, kind of miracle ) Hillenbrand is particularly well suited to tell this inspiring tale. Apart from a dramatic and rocky beginning when, apparent lack of confidence in the strength of her main character, she in a way hypes him up. However, she is intelligent, restrained as well as wise enough to let the story unfold for itself. Her research is thorough, her writing (even on complicated, technical wartime topics) razor sharp. “Unbroken” is gripping in an almost cinematic way.
6. Target Audience
(a) The book is meant to be a historical thriller dwelling upon shocking atrocities, unusual perseverance and unprecedented heroism, it is directed towards young generation unfamiliar with the first and second world wars.
(b) It is also aimed at nippon-philes amongst current lot of politicians and bureaucrats of America who are gung ho about the Japanese partnership.
7. Conclusion.
(a) Each war is paid for with the lives lost too young, with dignity and sanity stolen by evil men, with the worry and tears of families hanging on to the desperate belief that their boys would return home to them. As we lose more war veterans daily, it is good to know that some of their stories will remain with us so fully. While we cannot ever completely understand or appreciate it sitting in the confines of the study rooms, "Unbroken" is an excellent reminder of the cost of defending our nation.
(b) While the body counts mount in Afghanistan and Iraq, another military tally, less wrenching and tragic but poignant nonetheless, quietly proceeds. Every day more than 700 veterans of World War II die, and with each one goes a story, or dozens of them. Laura Hillenbrand reached Louis Zamperini just in the nick of time (he was in his mid-80s when she found him, and 93 now) and it’s an excellent thing, for his is surely one of the most extraordinary war stories of all.…...

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