Friday, September 9, 2011

Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand

by Lauren Hillenbrand
narrated by Edward Herrmann
Random House Audio, 2010
14 hours

In a nutshell:
"A WWII story of survival, resilience, and redemption"
Read the publisher's full summary here.

My thoughts:
The best thing about book clubs is that they push me outside my comfort zone. Without the 'book club selection' mandate, Unbroken would not have made my reading list. Books dealing with combat, POW camps, torture, and tales of survival send me running in the opposite direction. 'War books' simply aren't for me... unless the focus is on domestic issues or the home front.

However, once I started listening to Unbroken, there was no turning away. Louis Zamperini's journey from juvenile delinquent, to Olympic runner, to WWII bombardier was captivating, but it's the survival story that will stick with me. Floating on a raft in the Pacific Ocean for weeks, plagued by sharks, starvation, and enemy aircraft, Zamperini's ingenuity and resolve were simply amazing.

Zamperini was eventually captured and taken as a prisoner of war. An astonishing 37% of POWs in the Japanese camps died, and the brutalities were described in great detail. I found this section difficult to handle... proceed with caution. Finally, I cheered at Louis' rescue and followed along his journey of recovery.

Hillenbrand's extensive research is very evident throughout the book.

Book club reaction:
Several weeks before the meeting, I realized I wouldn't be able to attend, but decided to finish listening to the book anyway. Reactions varied widely. Several members loved the book, while a couple others found it too disturbing to finish. I may have been in the second group had I been reading rather than listening.

A note on the audio production:
Edward Herrmann's narration struck just the right balance. It was riveting, without being overly dramatic. Searching through his multiple credits, I realized I'd listened to his narration of Couples by John Updike. A few of his other titles have now been added to my audible wish list.

source: purchased from

My rating:

Bottom line:
Recommended, with a caution for the squeamish

Jen at Devourer of Books is collecting audiobook reviews every Friday for her new Sound Bytes feature. Stop by and read her review, then click over to see what others have posted. Feel free to link up your own audiobook review, too.


  1. I'm visiting from the Soundbytes feature! This book has been on my list for awhile. That's interesting that the audio version seemed to be a little less disturbing than the print could've been. I'll have to remember that! New follower, by the way. :)

  2. My book club is reading this later this year. My club shys away from chunksters so I hope it holds their attention.

  3. I keep seeing this all over the place. I can't decide if I want to read it or not. If I do it will be a long time til I get to it. Good review.

  4. I keep hearing people rave about this, but for some reason haven't been moved to read it. Perhaps audio would help me along.

  5. Bailey - I'm not sure if the audio was less disturbing, but it may have been more compelling... at least for me. I couldn't stop listening. Welcome to Lakeside Musing!

    Ti - I was really sorry to miss our meeting. We tend to have the best discussions when opinions vary this widely.

    Linda - Thanks. I know I never would have gotten to it without the book club push. Glad I listened instead of reading this time.

    Jen - This wasn't even on my wish list before the book club selected it. I think audio is definitely the way to go with this one!

  6. Not for me, but oh how I love her Seabiscuit.

  7. Nan - So did I! My book club read that one, too.

  8. I marked this one to read because of Diane's review. I may have to get this on audio for my husband. I think he would enjoy listening to this one for sure. Me, I'd rather read it.

  9. Staci - Either way, it's quite a story. Maybe you could listen together on your next road trip...

  10. Glad u had a chance to experience this one. I enjoyed the Kindle version a lot.

  11. See this wouldn't be on my list either. Now you have me curious.

  12. Diane - Our reading tastes match again!

    Beth F - I'd definitely recommend going with the audio here. It drew me in more than I expected... and when the going got tough, it would have been easy (for me, anyway) to set the book aside, but the audio was just too compelling.

  13. I read an article this past week that this book has sold over 1 million copies in the print version so, apparently it's very popular!

    I'm glad you enjoyed it more than you expected to. This book sounds very interesting and I think Laura Hillenbrand's writing is wonderful. She seems to influence people to read books they may not be interested in otherwise - she certainly knew what she was doing when she decided to write about Louis Zamoerini. What an amazing life he's had!
    I think the section about when he was a prisoner of war I will find very difficult when I finally read this book (or listen to it!) and I appreciate your advice :o)

    Incidentally, I read another review of this book in audio. I can't remember on whose blog it was but I remember that they raved about the audio version, too.

  14. I was really excited to see that my library has this book available in audio so I'm on the waiting list right now. I knew it was about WWII but not the details. Interesting that half your group thought it too graphic or disturbing to finish! Bet it would have been a great meeting!

  15. I liked this book a lot too. I listened to it and found it riveting!

  16. Amy - Just be prepared for the POW section! This was quite a powerful book and a very well done audio.

    Trish - I also learned quite a bit about the various planes and dangers involved, Japanese war culture, etc... things I didn't even think I was interested in. Hate when I miss a good book club meeting :-(

    Marie - Not sure I would have even finished this in print... definitely a book worth seeking out the audio version.


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