Tag Archives: Laura Hillenbrand

Movie vs. Book: Unbroken

The life of Louie Zamperini is an incredible one. He’s a man who seemed to live nine lives before finally dying at the age of 97 just last year — mere months before the movie about his life came out. Unbroken, the movie, is based on the bestselling book by Laura Hillenbrand. It’s a look at the amazing life and courage of Zamperini, who not only ran in the Olympics as a young man, but then went on to fight in WWII, have his plane crash in the ocean, survive on a raft for 47 days only to be captured and tortured for the next two years in a Japanese POW camp.

The book tells the story of his life in extraordinary detail — including passages about his friends in the war, about the duck with whom he becomes friends, and about the evil Japanese soldier, nicknamed “The Bird,” who focuses much of his energy of torturing Louie. While the Angelina Jolie-directed movie exudes the right tone and properly tells the general story of his life, it does leave out some memorable moments and important details from the book, and certain things feel watered down.

For instance, there are two other men on the raft with Zamperini after his plane is shot down — one of whom, in the book, eventually gives up on trying to stay alive and subsequently dies. But that is not portrayed well in the movie. In fact, the person who saw it with me asked how he died. He found it hard to follow what caused his death, and I had to explain that ultimately he gave up and his body gave out. The same goes for the portrayal of Louie’s arch nemesis, “The Bird.” While it’s clear that he’s evil, it wasn’t inherently clear in the movie that “The Bird” specifically had it out for Zamperini.

The movie also leaves out the duck — a detail that takes on more significance when the duck is brutally killed in the book.  As it turns out, that was a specific choice made by Jolie, according to Entertainment Weekly. And what’s worse — the movie leaves out the entire last section of the book, which delves into Zamperini’s struggle with PTSD and alcoholism after returning home to the war — an element which only added to the laundry list of things the man had been through and survived, an element that makes him only appear greater.

Of course, the movie would have been far too long with that section. And of course, Louie Zamperini would have been proud of and happy with the movie no matter what. Could it have used some work? Certainly. But the feeling of hope and optimism along with the sense that if the human spirit can overcome anything and everything is still there at the end of the movie, and that’s arguably the best and most important thing to take away from both the book and Louie Zamperini’s life.

Get Unbroken in paperback for $9.60.

Or get it on your Kindle for $4.99.

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YA Version of ‘Unbroken’ To Be Published

Screen shot 2014-04-17 at 9.28.33 PMHow fitting that the week I post a review of the bestselling nonfiction novel Unbroken, there’s new about the book!

According to Entertainment WeeklyUnbroken‘s bestselling author Laura Hillenbrand has written a young adult version of the book. This adds to the publicity Hillenbrand and Unbroken are already receiving this year, thanks to the Angelina Jolie-directed, Coen brothers-written film version, set to be released on Christmas Day 2014.

In a statement, Hillenbrand explained, “At the urging of librarians, teachers, and parents, I’ve created this edition specifically for younger readers. I’m delighted to bring Louie’s inspiring, exhilarating story to a new generation.”

The YA nonfiction novel is due to be released on Veterans Day, November 11, 2014.


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Review: Unbroken

Recap: Louis Zamperini has always and only wanted to do two things — cause a bit of mischief and run. After getting over a childhood bout of mischief, he stuck with running, and by 1936, he ran in his first Olympics, coming in 12th place in the world. That’s nothing to sneeze at, but Zamperini knew he could do better, so he set his sights on the 1940 Olympics. But those Olympic Games never came. World War II came instead, and suddenly the world-famous runner Louis Zamperini was thrust into serving his country.

The story of Louie Zamperini is a true one, and Laura Hillenbrand’s book Unbroken, a compelling work of nonfiction. Unbroken tells the story of the runner turned Air Force aviator whose bomber crashed in the ocean and forced Zamperini to live on open water for 47 days, only to be captured by the enemy and live in several POW camps across Japan. But none of this could break Louie, who not only survived, but is still living a long and happy life to this day.

AnalysisUnbroken is such a breathtakingly incredible story, it’s hard to believe it really happened. Author Laura Hillenbrand tells the story of Louis Zamperini’s life and the war with such great detail, it feels like we’re there. Never had I fully understood how WWII affected that generation, how it created such American disdain for the Japanese as well as the Germans, until reading this book. Yes, I know that sounds silly, but it’s true.

Hillenbrand takes you there with a certain matter-of-factness in her tone. The book, told from the point of view of Louie, doesn’t express a lot of personal emotion, but the facts and information alone and the bits and pieces of letters and journal entries included in the book help the reader understand what everyone was feeling without them expressing it bluntly themselves. Hillenbrand also informs the reader about Louie’s family members and friends, the people back home in America, and how they were coping with all that was going on.

The book doesn’t end with a heroic climax in which Zamperini arrives back home and all is right in the world. Instead, it keeps going, detailing Zamperini’s quest to become a runner again and his post-war alcohol abuse. We even learn what happened to “the Monster,” the man in one of the POW camps who consistently tortured Zamperini.  Unbroken is real, horrifying, graphic, and inspiring.

Louis Zamperini’s story isn’t that unique. Millions fought, got hurt, captured, killed, or came home in WWII. But Louis Zamperini’s story, told in this way, forces us to realize how much pain and suffering each of those men and women dealt with and makes us thankful for all they did.

MVP: Do I even have to say it? Louie Zamperini, of course. The pain and tragedy he dealt with are unbearable to even think about it, let alone face head on. But he did. And the best part? He made it out okay.

Get Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption in paperback for $15.20.

Or on your Kindle for $6.99.


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