1st Quarter Blog Post (Pg. 1-102)
Unbroken. A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. This title perfectly captures that pervading sensation of enduring tribulation and ultimately coming out victorious. The real-life story of Louie Zamperini–Olympic runner, World War II pilot, POW survivor… His unbroken spirit, enduring no matter what comes his way, is a story that is truly inspiring. Laura Hillenbrand had crafted what seemed to be a whole new world out of the accounts of Louie Zamperini, Pillsbury, and others whom she had interviewed, and it is a world that already has me in its engrossing grasp.
I have to say that I came into this having first watched the movie. I knew that Louie was an Olympic runner, that he had been an airman in the service of the U.S. Army, that he along with his crew had crashed and become stranded in the Pacific, and that the Japanese had held him prisoner…But I had never expected what Hillenbrand could have captured within her account. Hillenbrand is truly one of the few authors who can write a non-fiction story in the most vivid and gripping way imaginable. Few are blessed with such a way with words as she. Instead of being solely flowery or overly embellished, her prose lies basely on research, witness accounts, and interviews, and yet never manages to be dull nor tiresome.
I must also express that I am writing this blog post currently poised at the edge of my seat. Though slow in the beginning (as it provides much of the background to Louie’s Olympic aspirations and career, and is sprinkled intermittently with information about the U.S. Air Force and the specific models of planes) it had built towards such an engrossing cliffhanger that I am helpless in its hold. I can definitely see signs of foreshadowing that would soon amount to Louie’s crash and subsequent experience as a Prisoner of War. “The Flying Coffin,” the gathering of arms by both Hitler and the Japanese people (45), the passing of the Zeppelin who “was not a great presence but a great absence, a geometric ocean of darkness that seemed to swallow heaven itself…” (5) Even though I know the gist of what is about to happen, I still cannot wait to see what will unfold next!
Additionally, something that I noticed almost immediately upon reading this book is Hillenbrand’s style of narration. To me, it seemed the perfect balance between fiction and nonfiction. Not only does it reiterates facts and or relevant information such as statistics to the audience, she offers up an inside look into both Louie’s brain, and others of whom she interviewed, presenting an all-encompassing point of view. One example of this intriguing style of narration would be the character of Jimmie. She first presents him as a close friend of Louie’s—a scholarly, learned yet quiet man. In later pages, she provides a hint to his true identity, writing “Jimmie Sasaki wasn’t what he seemed…[his] attempts to pass as a student were apparently an elaborate ruse.” (42) Her writing seemed a perfect balance between fiction and nonfiction, as presenting a myriad of plots all at the same time. One might find a description of Hitler preparing his army and the Japanese minister raising his people up in arms…Hillenbrand’s description of events are all encompassing—many happen at the same time, illustrating the gravity of each situation. Furthermore, I love the way she so seamlessly incorporates each quote into the passages, providing a far more comprehensive account of World War II.
Though the 1st quarter technically ended on page 102, just as the survival of the crew of the Super Man came into question, I must admit that I may have ‘cheated’ in this aspect. Her writing has truly been so “ferociously cinematic” (to quote People) that I couldn’t simply stop at this climactic point. To stop would have meant that burning, all-enveloping sensation of curiosity, and I simply couldn’t bear not knowing. Reading this has simply enveloped me within Louie’s world, and so far my venture into the novel has been much promising, and I can hardly wait to further devour these pages. It is almost as if Louie’s dreams—his hopes and fears, his awe-inspiring experiences have entrapped me within its influence–a ‘cage’ that I cannot escape until I have satisfied my curiosity. Yet another World War II novel to add to that ever-growing collection of stories that we’d read this year! Happy reading!