Round Rock New Neighbors is a social organization of women welcoming women in the Round Rock area since 1978. Both "new" and "old" neighbors are welcome. For more information: [Barnes & Noble requires that RRNN's book club be open to the public, so you do not need to be an RRNN member to attend book club, and both men and women are welcome and do attend. ]

Literary Events

The Friends of the Georgetown Public Library’s Hill Country Authors Series events will be listed here. Next event:

Nov 1, 2017 2:00 PM in the Georgetown Public Library.

Highlight and right click on this "link" to see everything you need to know to attend.
The Nobel Prize in Literature was given to author Kazuo Ishiguro.
Amazon is planning a video series based on stories by Philip K. Dick. Date of release is not yet announced.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Unbroken: So Exciting It Doesn't Spoil the Reading Even if You Know How it Ends

True war stories never cease to amaze! Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand, is no exception, and it is an exceptional book! This is a best seller, that people claim as favorite, best book ever. I have trouble choosing one of those, but that's off topic. A group of more than 20 met to discuss the book, and all had read it! I don't think we even bothered to take a vote as to how many "liked" this book, as it is obviously an excellent book.

Thanks to Joyce! Presenting the book, she brought some notes and questions and added depth to our understanding. Joyce told us about some ex prisoners of war she remembered from her teen years. One was a priest who had been a POW in Germany. Joyce's description of him, from her teenaged self, was that he shook and was mean and said "damn" in front of the teens; which, at that time and in that place, was unusual and out-of-control behavior. The second was the father of one of her friends. This man had been a POW of the Japanese. He was very thin, because he had severe digestive problems (likely from the war). Maybe he had encountered Zamperini and/or been at that awful camp where Zamperini had been. Another was a man Joyce remembered as "Mr. Martin." This man had been a POW of Japan. He was considered "shell-shocked" and lived his adult life with his parents. Joyce currently has a nephew who was a medic in Afghanistan and now has a diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder. It is upsetting to think of how much disruption is caused in the lives of those involved in almost any aspect of war.

Joyce asked us to share our most memorable impressions from the book:
Marcia: the sharks in the water around the raft
Dennis: the brutal training, complete with beatings
Carla: the dangerous poorly maintained planes, "flying coffins"
Cindy T.: Louis had bargained in prayer that if he lived, he would devote his life to religion, and this did happen, though it was many years after the end of the war
Joyce: the prisoner who was going to drink a drop of water from a leaf, and the guard who took that opportunity away from the prisoner
Me (Claudia): the Bird's unrelenting meanness and how hard it must have been to cope with every aspect of it
        The Bird sent us into a tangent: Carla said he was interviewed and said that his actions were                        expected of him, but that she thought he was psychotic.
         Linda H. thought he was a pervert

We didn't discuss a lot of the action in the book in detail. There were some interesting comments about the writing of the book and the veracity of the history. Amy told us about an interview of Laura Hillenbrand, the author. Hillenbrand communicated with Louis Zamperini for 6 years while writing the book, interviewing him 75 times, according to the New York Times. She didn't meet him until near his death. He went to visit her, as she was mostly housebound. She wanted to see the scars on his hands. Scars would have been from when an albatross bit him, when he was on the raft and was catching albatrosses for them to eat as well as use for bait to catch fish. Perhaps some from catching sharks with his bare hands on the raft, for food and bait. Carla remembered that another scar might have been from when Louis hoisted himself from the sinking plane via his class ring that had hooked onto the plane's frame. Hillenbrand said she felt that she had been better able to write about Zamperini without meeting him.

Kathleen voiced a concern about her suspicion that so much detail might indicate some fabrication. Pam also felt that not every detail was completely true. However, as Carla argued, Zamperini had kept a lot of notes in his notebook, and Dennis and Linda remembered noticing the parts in the book where the prisoners purposely memorized details and told each other the details while on the raft to keep their minds active and sane. Another factor is that Zamperini did tell his war stories for many years between the 1940s and Hillenbrand's researching his life a few years ago. Many renditions are available via news articles, interviews, television, lectures, etc. Zamperini's war stories are part of U.S. history. For the skeptical, there is still room for some fabrication, as the memory is what it is.

Zamperini lived to see the book plus an unfinished version of the movie that director Angelina Jolie showed him when he was in the hospital. I think it was Carol who told us about Jolie visiting Zamperini. He apparently liked the movie. There has been some controversy about the detail and emphasis on his religious transformation at the end of his life, which some critics believe was minimized too much in the movie. According to Angelina Jolie's visit with the hero, his religious feelings were personal and he was comfortable with the movie rendition. This concern of his might have influenced the movie.

There are a number of articles and reviews about the movie online (duh). Here is a link to a trailer on YouTube. Unbroken - Trailer  If you watch it, you will be led to more videos about/from the movie. The movies doesn't seem to be around, but you can watch on Amazon for $15.00. (I'll wait.)

There are many interviews and reviews about this book and its history. So, that would indicate that there is a lot of truth in the book, or at least that it matches Zamperini's memories. The central figure in this biography, Louis Zamperini, certainly survived almost unbelievable hardship during the war. It's great that such a detailed history has been recorded about him and that the evils of war are publicized by this bestseller.

Films that were mentioned in conjunction with this book that had relevant subject matter, ie, the Japanese in World War II:
The Bridge Over the River Kwai
The Great Raid
King Rat
The Camp on Blood Island
Empire of the Sun
Letters From Iwo Jima
Flags of Our Fathers
The Railway Man

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