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Briefly Noted: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

He competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics and had his picture taken with Hitler. In the war that followed, he was shot down over the Pacific and he spent 47 days on a raft drifting aimlessly, surviving Japanese planes and sharks. For the next two years he was tortured by a sadist Japanese prison guard. Any normal person would have died, but Louis Zamperini survived all that to tell his tale. Unfortunately he became an evangelical, but somehow that saved him, his marriage and sanity.

The author does not simply follow Zamperini’s life, but also keeps track of the torturer Mutsuhiro Watanabe who survived the war and the hunt for war criminals. He was alive till 2005 and there was a possibility of both of them meeting again in Japan. But that never happened as Watanabe backed out.

This book is an example of what a great non-fiction writer can do; the research just blends into the story telling. Within the structure of a biography, Laura Hillenbrand introduces suspense and lots of history. This is one of the most powerful books I have read recently.

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