I was looking for a new audio book through my online library system and this one was available. I hadn’t seen the movie because I wasn’t sure I wanted to see a POW movie (maybe too intense) but I thought listening to the book might work.
Stats: Published in 2010, print is 473 pages, audio is about 14 hours, read by Edward Herrmann.
Blurb: On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.
The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.
Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.
What I liked: Like all good non-fiction, it “read” like a fictional story, which is quite the accomplishment with such a long story. It helps that it’s such an amazing story, it keeps your interest the whole time, if you can stomach some of it, that is. What those men endured on the life raft and in the Japanese prison camps was hard to fathom. It was also very interesting learning what happened to some of the survivors – especially Louis Z. Listening to Edward Herrmann was a pleasure.
What I didn’t like: It was a bit long. Could some of the beginning been cut a bit? Perhaps. Even though the time in the camps was hard to listen to at times, it isn’t anything you can (or should) cut. It was frustrating to hear what happened to some of the guards at the prison, most notably “the bird” – the guard out to get Louis. But it is what it is.