Josh Letter Essay #6: Unbroken

Dear classmates,

Recently, I have finished reading Unbroken, a 473-page, historical non-fiction novel by Laura Hillenbrand that was published in 2010. The author of this book, Laura Hillenbrand, is an american author who was famous for her novel, Seabiscuit, which was published in 2001. She has not written anything since Unbroken in 2010 which really surprised me considering that she is such an amazing author. Hopefully, she is writing a book now for all of us to enjoy.


I read this book because I saw the movie just after it came out. I thought the movie was amazing. After seeing the movie in the theaters, I wanted it on DVD and to read the book. I thought I would know what would happen in the book but it is much different from the movie. In fact it is much better. I have read this book several times now and it never gets old. It only grows on me.


This book follows the life of Olympian and war hero, Louie Zamperini. He came from a poor Italian family in Torrance, California. From a young age, Louie had talent. The only thing is that he did not realize it. He was an amazing runner. Sadly, before his older brother Pete turned him onto running though, he used this talent to steal. Once Pete saw his talent though, he forced Louie to go out for the track team. Louie quickly showed his talent, smashing record after record as the fastest mile runner in America. Soon, Louie is recruited by USC (University of Southern California) to run for their track team. After that, he went to the Olympic trials and qualified. While he may not have won the 400m in the Olympics, he had the best American time. Soon after his triumphant success, he decides to go into the Air Force. He hated it. But soon after WWII started, he was drafted and forced to go back. After being stationed in Hawaii as a bombardier (bomber) he goes on several missions. But on one fateful mission, his plane crashes into the pacific and Louie, along with two other survivors, Mac and Phil, must fight for survival in the middle of the pacific.


In the novel, Unbroken, at the prison camp Louie went to after being captured by the Japanese, the Bird (aka Mutsuhiro Watanabe), a sadistic prison guard really hated Louie. One passage of writing that shows this goes “‘Why you no look me in the eye?’… He held his face taut as he raised his eyes to the corporal’s face. Again came a whirling arm, the jarring blow to his skull, and his legs stumbling to try to hold him upright.” (238). In this part of the book, the Bird asked all of the American POWs to give him their names. When Louie looked him in the eye, he was hit. When he was told to look the guard in the eye again, he did is and was struck once more. Why did the Bird do this? All Louie was trying to do was follow orders so he would not be hit. It is not fair that the guard did this. I think he just wanted to do this to break the men. But he did it to Louie in particular. Maybe it was because he was an olympian? Maybe because he looked him in the eye in the first place and was mad that Louie was this bold? There is no right answer in the end. But it was not right either way. This, in my opinion, was because the Bird was truly sadistic. But I like this scene because is shows that is will not be an easy ride for Louie at this prison camp and foreshadows what may be to come later on in the book.


Another question that I have is, why did Louie steal so much as a kid? In the book, an example of this is “If it was edible, Louie stole it. He skulked down alleys, a roll of lock picking wire in his pocket. Housewives who stepped from their kitchen would return to find that their suppers had disappeared. Residents looking out their back windows might catch a glimpse of a long-legged boy dashing down the alley, a whole cake balanced in his hands.” (6). In this part of the book, the author was describing Louie’s epic feats of thievery. I wonder why he did this. It could be that he was always hungry. After all, his family was poor and really could not afford any really nice food. That is what I think it was. It may have just been hard to put food on the table. I like this because it provides insight on Louie.


In relation to my last question, it really surprised me that Louie managed to get away with so much. Again, it was said that he could run away with a whole cake in his hands. He must have been very sneaky in order to accomplish this feat. I think that he was able to do this because he was just in and out. He picked the lock, grabbed the food and left. It could be that he waited for people to leave for a long period of time, and then struck, but I think is was my first solution. I like this part a lot because it shows how quick and skilled Louie was as a thief. I also think that this was very funny.


In another part of the book, I really liked how the author described the ocean in which Louie was stranded after the crash of his plane. A passage of description goes “All he could see in every direction was water.” (preface, page 1). In this part, the author was describing the vast ocean that enveloped Louie after he crashed. I really liked this because it provides some detail as to why Louie and his crew felt hopeless. It was almost like an endless expanse of ocean. I feel like anyone, even if they love the ocean, would be absolutely terrified. I think that Louie and his group must have felt hopeless also because earlier in the novel, the author described the very slim chance of being rescued. Is was very hard to see them from a plane or boat so they really must have feared for their lives.


On page 48, when a Japanese spy had been found, I noticed that the author gave evidence that all pointed to Jimmy, Louie’s good, Japanese college friend. A passage from this part goes “…on assignment to raise money for the Japanese military… According to the informant, the man was known as  ‘Mr. Sasaki.’ It was Louie’s good friend Jimmy.” (48). I liked this part of the book because it does not exactly tell you who it was at first. It really leaves you hanging and then tells you. This was one of my favorite parts of the author’s craft.


In conclusion, this was an absolutely amazing book. I give it a 10/10 because is was the best historical non-fiction book I had ever read. I would strongly recommend is to anyone who wants to read a good book.




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