The Good: This is easily the best biography I’ve ever read. Time named it the “top nonfiction book of the year.” Laura describes events as if you are watching them – living them. In this real life Series of Unfortunate Events, there is surprising inspiration. If you read one book this year, you won’t go wrong choosing Unbroken.
The Bad: When my wife JO first gave me the book, I read a chapter and gave up. I’m an extremely lazy reader, and it just didn’t grab me. Then we went to the movie against my objections, and I decided to give it another shot. Once in a few chapters I couldn’t put it down – no more skimming, I wanted every word.
BTW, reading the book AFTER watching them move worked out better for me. The book is much darker in the bad times, and much brighter in the good. I’d have been disappointed if I’d watched the movie after reading the book, but this way I enjoyed both.
The Ugly: A note about the movie. Before seeing it, I had read that much was left out from the end of the book. Somehow that was suppose to make the movie lousy. I watched the movie, loved it, and thought they were wrong.
Then I read the book.
They were right.
As much as I loved the movie, after reading Unbroken, looking back on the movie it seemed flat. It’s black-and-white in my memory in comparison. The worst of it is that the movie misses the main point of the book. The movie leaves one with the impression that the end of the war was the redemption the Japanese POWs needed to start a new life. Nothing could be further from the truth. For most of the captives, the end of the war was the beginning of a new hell back in the states as they strove to start a new life without dignity and with PTSD. So, in a sense, the movie, as good as it was, leaves you with a lie. The book continues through the hell of hatred, flashbacks and resentment to true redemption. Don’t miss it.
My favorite quotes in the book weren’t written by Laura Hillenbrand, but are the quotes she chooses record. Here are a few of them:
• “Darkness doesn’t hide the eyes of God” – Billy Graham, p.380
• Louie’s letter to Matsuhiro Wantanabe is worth the price of the book alone. I won’t put it in so as to spoil the book, but it comes on pages 404-405. These words of Louie are the binding of the entire book – the reason the rest of his story is worth telling. It is a shame they left it out of the movie completely. These words have no great meaning without his previous life story, but his story has no meaning without these words.
• Resentment… “nails every one of us onto the cross of his ruined past.” – Jean Amery