By Laura Hillenbrand

Printed: 2011

Publisher: Fourth Estate. London

Edition: First edition

Dimensions 17 × 24 × 5 cm

Language: English

Size (cminches): 17 x 24 x 5

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In the original dustsheet. Tan cloth binding with red gilt title on the spine.

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The incredible true story of Louis Zamperini, now a major motion picture directed by Angelina Jolie. In 1943 a bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean. Against all odds, one young lieutenant survives. Louise Zamperini had already transformed himself from child delinquent to prodigious athlete, running in the Berlin Olympics. Now he must embark on one of the Second World War’s most extraordinary odysseys. Zamperini faces thousands of miles of open ocean on a failing raft. Beyond like only greater trials, in Japan’s prisoner-of-war camps. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini’s destiny, whether triumph or tragedy, depends on the strength of his will … Now a major motion picture, directed by Angelina Jolie and starring Jack O’ Connell.

Review: Stunning. That sums this book up in a word. I had read a brief summary of Louis Zamperini’s life in Don Stephens’ excellent book  War and Grace  and was fascinated to see a much longer version. I wasn’t disappointed. Some authors struggle when they are faced with a welter of facts, details, interviews – they either smother you with them, thus losing the storyline, or they ignore them, thus depriving the story of colour, depth and character. Laura Hillenbrand has mastered her homework without mastering her. She strikes a perfect balance, and delivers an engrossing, engaging read. From Zamperini’s early days as a tearaway, to his success as an athlete, through his American Air Force career, to the POW camps in Japan, to his return from the ‘grave’, to his even more amazing transformation by God’s grace – all is superbly told. It is hard to find a point at which to put the book down. The story captures the horror of air combat, the sickening losses even before combat, the sheer awfulness of the POW camps and the trauma the men faced on returning to ‘normal’ life. The characters are very real, their fear, courage, humanity, anger, bitterness are all displayed, rather than hyped up or hidden away. One of the aspects I liked was the balance in which the Japanese camp officials were portrayed – some brutal and sadistic, but some deeply courageous and humane. It would have been easy to create a one sided impression. But for me the absolute highlight is found in the closing chapters. I dont think a review would be complete without mentioning them – But STOP HERE if you don’t want to know the ending! I think it would be a fair reflection to say that the title is slightly inaccurate. Louis Zamperini was eventually broken, he may have survived the camps, but he wasn’t surviving the aftermath; he was unraveling at a tremendous rate. Yet it is in this context that this broken man finds himself being remade, set free by a power much greater than his own rugged determination. It put me in mind of a verse in the Bible – “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 As such, this book is more than an inspiring story, it is one which holds out hope to everyone. It was refreshing to see a Christian story being treated by an author whose religious leanings I know nothing about, in a way that does justice to the impact of God’s work in Louis’ life. Full marks Laura Hillenbrand. This book is a perfect read for virtually anyone – even if you aren’t drawn to war stories, or Christian biography, I suspect that you will find yourself engrossed in this captivating tale of a struggle for survival and much more.


                                                          Zamperini in 1943

Louis Silvie Zamperini (January 26, 1917 – July 2, 2014) was an American World War II veteran, an Olympic distance runner and a Christian Evangelist. He took up running in high school and qualified for the United States in the 5,000 m race for the 1936 Berlin Olympics, finishing 8th while setting a new lap record in the process. Zamperini was commissioned in the United States Army Air Forces as a lieutenant. He served as a bombardier on B-24 Liberators in the Pacific. On a search and rescue mission, his plane experienced mechanical difficulties and crashed into the ocean. After drifting at sea on a life raft for 47 days, with two other crewmates, Zamperini landed on the Japanese-occupied Marshall Islands and was captured. He was taken to four different prisoner-of-war camps (total) in Japan where he was tortured and beaten by Japanese military personnel—specifically by Mutsuhiro Watanabe—due to Zamperini’s status as a famous Olympic runner. He was later taken to a new prison camp at a coal factory, and after much hardship, he was finally released. Following the war he initially struggled to overcome his ordeal, battling with post-traumatic stress disorder. He later became a Christian evangelist with a strong belief in forgiveness. From 1952 onwards, he devoted himself to at-risk youth. Zamperini is the subject of three biographical films: Unbroken (2014), its sequel Unbroken: Path to Redemption (2018), and Captured by Grace (2015).

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