While our attention is drawn to the increasing body count in Afghanistan, it is quite unfortunate and frustrating that the death of some 700 WWII veterans daily doesn’t seem to stir us from our stupor. It is a good thing that Laura Hillenbrand was able to reach Louis Zamperini, already an octogenarian, to learn about what could be considered one of the most incredible war stories thus far.
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption chronicles the gory details of the war and the travails of American soldiers. In a time when our perception of Japanese is mostly associated with the Sony gadgets and Toyota cars, this book is definitely a must-read. This is yet another concrete proof of the valor and unwavering spirit of American soldiers.
Unbroken chronicles the sufferings and triumphs of Zamperini, a WWII Airman and POW. Hillenbrand is able to help us see and experience this 93-year-old American hero’s grit and courage from a fresh perspective. While we get to discover his string of accomplishments which include his conquest of the track during the Berlin Olympics, Unbroken is really about a story of a man whose unbridled spirit and dogged determination have pushed him to where no other man has ever been before and survive the brutality of Japanese POW camps.
Hillenbrand is the perfect bearer for this amazing and inspiring story of heroism. Beyond the troubles and struggles during the early stages of the book, where she resorted to all-out reverence to her subject, Hillenbrand was able to get her acts together and come up with an objective account of the travails of a WWII veteran, which could well be the embodiment of the darkest moments of those times. She comes out with an intelligent and objective treatise of her subject and topic and her writing style is engaging and matched with just the right amount of technical elements.
Unbroken is all about the gripping experience of a WWII soldier who has seen the worst of his time but presented by Hillenbrand in a cinematic and palatable manner. However, we can see incongruity in just one aspect, and that is the manner by which the writer tends to go overboard when the topic is about her WWII hero.
A careful look at the circumstances with which Hillenbrand had to come up with a fair chronicling of Zamperini’s story, one would think that Unbroken is an easier hurdle than “Seabiscuit.” Apparently, this is not the case. Zamperini may have already shared his wartime and post-WWII experiences over a thousand times, through speeches, in newspaper reports, and TV and radio interviews. Surely, Hillenbrand had to go through a more difficult process finding a new perspective to work on for this project.
Considering that Hillenbrand has had enough time to go through the details and highlights of his life story, one cannot help but wonder why Unbroken seem to have fallen short in a few important aspects about her subject. This may be due to her physical limitation as Hillenbrand herself admitted that she had to work from home most of the time and the interviews were mostly done over the phone. Nonetheless, I should doff my hat to her for having able to deliver a strong message in Unbroken despite the limitations and barriers.