Book Review: Unbroken

Book Review: Unbroken by: Laura Hillendbrand

My review of this book is based on the writing of Hillenbrand and how she put forth Louis Zamperini’s heroic story. She was given a gold mine of material to work with, but in my opinion, this is not her best work. I give the book three out of five stars for thorough research and a quality idea.

What I like about the book:

1) The authenticity of the details. It’s easy to see the amount of research Hillenbrand did for this book.

2) Zamperini’s amazing story. I feel it’s the power of this, and not the author, who carry the reader through this book. I left this book wishing another historical fiction author had taken on this prime subject from American History instead of Hillenbrand.

What I didn’t like about the book:

1) The narrative. I read this book because the action compelled me, not because I felt vested in the character of Zamperini. Personal thoughts and character impressions are skimmed over, and deeper insight or detail of what kept the men of World War II hanging on was glossed over. Hillenbrand’s narrative separates you from the characters but brings you uncomfortably close to tragedies most people could not fathom of their own cognizance. The violence is so frequent I became bored reading about it. Desensitized, I was also tired of repetitive second and third retellings of afflictions.  These were only changed slightly by the administrators of the punishment, the weather, or a twist with some secondary threat or torture mentioned. I was ready to shelve this book around chapter twenty-two.

2) Poor characterization. I felt no strong ties to any of the characters, which there are many, and over time the sketches of them made it difficult to decipher one from another. Names are given in rapid succession with brief descriptions much like: so and so is this and he was known for such and such. I was soon lost to all peripheral characters, and clung to job assignments as a clue to what relevance they held in future scenes.

This book is not for the faint of heart. Hillenbrand has gone to great lengths to include several chapters of material with excruciating details of life as a Prisoner of War in World War II Japan. While I think it is relevant and sound to revisit the dark corridors of human history, anyone looking to read this book should be well advised of its graphic and disturbing content.