Celebrating the human spirit

October 16, 2013 by  
Filed under current, Reading Space

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand



As a kid, Louis Zamperini was not destined to be one of life’s inspiring characters. He was, frankly, a bit of a ratbag. He was a thief, a burglar and was always ready for a brawl. But, somewhere along the line, the juvenile delinquent channelled his energy into athletics. The teenage Louis became a champion runner, representing the US at the 1936 Berlin Olympics (where he shook hands with Hitler, and then almost got himself shot by German guards after souveniring an official flag).

Then, when the US entered the war, Louis became an allied airman. While flying on a mission over the Pacific Ocean, Louis’s plane went down – killing 8 of the 11 airmen on board. Over the next 47 days, Louis and two other men struggled to survive on a tiny raft with no food, no water, and no way to steer the raft. They had to combat starvation, thirst, assaults from Japanese bombers and the particular horror of sharks that would jump onto the raft to try and eat them.

What happens next is almost unbelievable – the raft containing Louis and one other survivor (one man died on day 33) eventually drifted close to land. Japanese-occupied land. For the rest of the war, Zamperini was tortured, beaten and starved by Japanese guards, determined to break the spirit of the former Olympic champion.

Unbroken is not just a chronicle of Louis’s determination to survive. It is also a story of forgiveness and compassion. After the war, Louis struggles on his return to post-war America. Although he marries a wonderful girl, his wartime experiences have left deep scars. He drinks heavily, and suffers from (what we would call) PTSD. A chance encounter leads him to become a born-again Christian. Then, in the early 1950s, Louis returns to Japan. In the spirit of forgiveness, he meets with some of his former captors, and hugs them tightly…

Laura Hillenbrand has written a biography that will grip you and hold you tight until the very end. Her writing is powerful and extremely evocative. And having Louis in your life – even if only through the pages of this book – will make your life that much the richer.

What books or stories do you find inspirational? Share your recommendations in the comments section below!

About our Reading Space Contributor

Carolyn Leslie Feb 13Carolyn Leslie is an IPEd-accredited editor, a writer, an award-winning book reviewer and a business chick, as well as Mama to two little boys. Carolyn loves books, blogs, op shops, gardening, mucking around in the kitchen and dancing crazily with her kids (and sometimes even with her husband). She dreams of someday having a quiet and (totally) uninterrupted read…

You can follow her on twitter @carolynleslie. Or if email is your thing, drop her a line sometime at carolyn@carolynleslie.com.au


2 Responses to “Celebrating the human spirit”
  1. WOW! What an amazing story – especially the fact that Louis was able to forgive his former captors. Very powerful. Will put the book on by wishlist!

  2. Carolyn Leslie says:

    Julia – I hope you enjoy it! It is quite heartbreaking at times, but it also quite heart-lifting. I’d love to know what you think of it..