Review: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Anyone interested in survival of either body or spirit should read this book! This is the story of an Olympic runner who ends up in the WWII equivalent of the air force. His plane fails and crashlands in the sea, leaving three survivors sharing two rubber rafts in the middle of the Pacific ocean.

What I loved about this book is the extraordinary resourcefulness of the protagonist, Louis–even more striking because we’re talking about a real guy. From the minute he survives the wreck, he is always thinking about how to survive a little bit longer, finding advantages in their meager supplies and developing systems to enable him and his companions to live through another day in these extreme circumstances. I don’t want to detail all of it here: really, you should read the book.

Hillenbrand does a marvelous job of segueing between the story she’s telling and the historical background information you need in order to both understand the story and place it in context. Historical novelists and fantasy writers take note! Too much backstory is an easy way to kill the momentum of a book. The advice is to include the backstory only–and exactly–when the reader wants to know.

So Hillenbrand can take you from the scene in the air–a riveting bombing raid over Japanese territory–to the story behind the airplanes they fly, what makes them work, and what makes them fail. How does she do this? Because the reader now needs to know. The events of the story make the historical details compelling. Those details will add up to significant moments in the lives of characters she has already gotten us to care about. I may need to read this one again to absorb the lessons she can teach.

View all my reviews

About E. C. Ambrose

I spend as much time in my office as I possibly can--thinking up terrible things to do to people who don't exist.
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2 Responses to Review: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption

  1. Linds says:

    I really enjoyed this book.There’s a point where Louis has been on the raft for quite a while and I realized that I was maybe half way through the book. And I thought to myself, what else could possibly happen? Because being stranded in the ocean a la Life of Pi was bad enough –and I was so wrong.

    I agree that Lauren Hillenbrand does an amazing job bringing the story to life and weaving in historical details. I particularly liked how some of the early stories about Louis’s antics as a kid became more than just funny anecdotes later on.

    • Excellent point about his backstory. This is another reason why fiction writers should pay attention to books like this. We’re given some amusing information early on, that later becomes important–but at the time it’s neither intrusive nor highly compelling, so the reader gets that “a-ha!” moment when you see how this helped him become who he is.

      Thanks for reading!

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