Author: Laura Hillenbrand
Genre: Non-Fiction, Historical, Biographical
Publisher: Random House
Pub. Date: November 16, 2010
It is November and I finally have my first five star read of the year! I read all the rave reviews when this first came out, but I literally had no. interest. whatsoever. at that time. It's hard to believe I ever felt that way, but it's possible that my interest in war related topics has just increased that much since 2010. (Although, seriously, even if you don't have interest in that topic, in general, you have to read this!) I chose this as my book club pick for the next month, which will be in January, and I'm so glad I chose it because I would have missed out on something absolutely amazing if I skipped this and now I can make everyone else read it too! :) Plus, I am excited about the movie coming out, directed by Angelina Jolie, and the Oscar buzz it's eliciting!
This book enthralled me. I could not put it down... reading this was the last thing I did before bed each night and the first thing I did each morning (for the few short days I was reading it, anyway). I went into it remembering one specific review that had stuck out to me back in the day; that reviewer stated they could not at all believe that someone had gone through all this and felt much of it must have been fabricated. They also felt it was a very self-serving story. I can see where every time something happened it was like, seriously?? But, in reality, as extreme as it is, I choose to believe it all. And I certainly did NOT come away from this thinking negatively or skeptically of Louis Zamperini. The opposite, actually! And it is insane what Louis Zamperini went through. What I had trouble believing, if anything, was that a human being could endure all that this person endured. That was probably the hardest, but there were many men who endured what he did (and one other who endured being lost at sea for 47 days with him) so we know it can happen. I wrote down a few quotes from Hillenbrand's fantastic writing, but here is one of my favorites:
"Dignity is as essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen. The stubborn retention of it, even in the face of extreme physical hardship, can hold a man's soul in his body long past the point at which the body should have surrendered it. The loss of it can carry a man off as surely as thirst, hunger, exposure, and asphyxiation, and with greater cruelty." (pg. 189, paperback copy).I feel like in the end, that's what this book and this story are about. Dignity, and how maintaining or restoring it is what makes people resilient. It's how we move forward. This books provides a long look at the best of people and their resilience as well as into the worst of people when they are put into a situation of power and authority. Although this is about the life of Louis Zamperini, I thought Hillenbrand did a great job of narrating not just his life but those of other soldiers as well and narrating the circumstances, in general. I also liked that the book didn't end when the war did. Hillenbrand continues on afterward to describe the aftermath of war on the soldiers including their experiences with PTSD; she includes the outcomes of the lives of the captors, and this last section about the aftermath of the war is just as interesting as the rest of the story. It was also interesting to read this WWII story specifically because almost everything we read about this war is about what took place in Europe, especially in Germany, but the atrocities in Japan were on par with that of Germany and we don't hear much about it.
I just don't have the words... I cannot express what I want about this book because I loved it so much. I had to stop sometimes to reflect on what I had just read or to let myself cry or just to take a breath. But it was always a short break since I couldn't put it down! I would say it's on my list of the best EVER books. I will recommend this again and again... along with a box of tissues.