When I began Unbroken I was rather disappointed with the first section. Probably the strong point of Laura Hillenbrand's style is her ability to marshall carefully researched factual material into a coherent pattern. In that first part dealing with Louis Zamperini's disturbed childhood, I feel that she missed an opportunity to develop the deeper effects of those years on the adult who became so astonishingly heroic in later life. A couple examples spring to mind. When Louis prays on the ocean, he mentions that it is only the second time it has happened in his life; the first was when his mother became ill. This love for his mother is not really developed to any extent in the opening section. In the same part of the book he has a heightened spiritual experience. The roots of this spirituality must have been there when he was young but Hillenbrand never really attempts to approach that area. All she ever says is that this kind of destructive delinquency made him "tough" and the solution was found when his brother got him to run. IMO, that sounds too simplistic. Perhaps she should have explored the causes of changes in his character more than she did. I accept that she does give a great deal of material about that time in Zamperini's life--I just think that she could have analysed it more carefully and more seriously.
Once past the opening section, the book improves enormously both in style and substance. The simple--almost pedestrian quality of the prose is more effective here than in the first section as it allows the events to make a direct impact. The vivid and precise factual detail brings the entire epoch to life. Other individuals associated with Louis fill out the texture, elaborate the themes and we find ourselves involved in a powerful dramatisation of the capability of humans to rise above adversity--much of which is caused by the fallibility of human nature itself. While warfare, by its very nature, tends to polarise values, cultures, and nationalities--in this book not all Americans are portrayed as perfect and heroic and not all Japanese are villainous. The spiritual development of Zamperini is one which encompassed the whole person and despite the cauldron of physical and emotional suffering he goes through, he asserts and validates his humanity. It is this intrinsic humanity which always remains unbroken and from which we can all take heart.
Last edited by fantasyfan; 09-19-2011 at 08:34 AM.