This was one of the hardest books to read I've picked up in a long time. The author's skill at telling the story is on display, but at times she can be a bit heavy handed. She takes on a massive challenge: How can you overstate the atrocities of the Japanese Empire of the 30's and 40's? From the Rape of Nanking to the treatment of Allied POWs to the misery the Empire inflicted on their own people, there's no happy story to tell. Lucky for her, the resilience and creativity of Louie Zamperini is the thread that keeps this book going, even in its darkest chapters.
This book is divided into a 5 or 6 parts and each is distinct part:
1. Before the War: Louie's childhood troubles and Olympic experience are a joy to read. The vision of the 20's and 30's is amazing and fun to read. The story glows with the happy, gauzy light of nostalgia and historical detail not known to most.
2. War: the part about training and flying during the war is interesting, but nothing out of the ordinary for such memoire type books. People die around the protagonist as he survives insane odds, which is normal stuff for WWII books.
3. Adrift: this was different and interesting, not the normal fare for survival books. A spiritual and existential dimension is added to their suffering which almost makes it seem worth while.
4. POW: complete and utter despair and misery. Zamperini goes from one rung of hell to a lower, nastier, darker rung of hell again and again, over the years he is a POW until he lands in the worst place in the world, vulnerable in the hands of a vicious sadist. It's almost a kind of sick, voyeuristic 400 pages of misery. I was tempted to skip ahead but the stories of how the POWs resisted and found ways, as minute as they were, to obtain tiny victories kept these pages turning, even through the constant horror.
5. Coming Home: lots of great things await our protagonist like food, hot water, safety, cleanliness, freedom from abuse and beatings, dignity, his family and a wife and kids. But after the initial enjoyment, there's massive PTSD, alcoholism and near ruin.
6. Forgiveness: this section almost ends too quickly, but there's not much story left to tell. Louie discovers the gospel of forgiveness which frees him from his rage. It's touching but almost a foot note
I think the author did an amazing job with the material she had, but was still left wanting. If you ask me, too much time was spent on the misery and hardship. but then again, how can one down play he misery people endured during WWII? My generation has no idea (and I hope we never will). Anyway, I'll remember this book for a long time. It did change me, but it was not a pleasant experience.
In the couple of years I have used Audible, I have generally had a great experience. I've really enjoyed most each and every book I've used from Audible. But this book was abysmal. I could not wait to finish it and took pleasure in deleting it from the device.
Let me start out by saying the only fault Audible shares is adding this recording to their library. While the book has a great message of spirituality from the late 17th century, the production almost kills any benefit the message of Brother Lawrence imparts. The narrator reads the text like some kind of self-help salesman, brimming with forced enthusiasm in an attempt to bring home the message. Then, when reading quotes/letters of Brother Lawrence, the narrator does so in some kind of creepy old man voice that sounds like the Crypt-Keeper. As well, the product appears choppy, cutting off mid-story in the transition between chapter 1 and 2.
In the spirit of "Practicing the Presence of God", I would like to offer up my suffering, of listening to a butchering of Bother Lawrence's message, to God. The suffering has been plentiful and a tribute to God and trust in his plan. But if you are a looking for a sign-post on your path to a closer relationship with God, save yourself abundant suffering at the ineptitude of the producers of this work and take another path to Brother Lawrence's message.
Loved the story and the erudite style of Robertson Davies. It is his. Typical engaging, witty style that mocks all his characters while romping through the story. Lots of classic references to the arts, music and literature in a way as to open them to the unaware, such as myself.
Sadly the recording is flawed. Not so much one cannot enjoy the story, but it is rather annoying. Chapters get two minutes in and them begin again with no warning. This is a bit disconcerting, leaving the listener wondering if he missed something. Also, it appears to be a hashing together of various efforts as the narrators voice and tone seem to change from section to section. Still, the story is good and the narrator effective. But the production is poor.
Id love to give this 5 stars but cannot due to the production.
O'Brien gives a newer and deeper view of the time and place. It's not the first book, not as light hearted, but more interesting and darker. Very enjoyable.
I can't say how much I have enjoyed this book. O'Brien keeps the excitement going. There are peaks and troughs, fast paced action and slow times, but always entertaining. Anyone who has ever sailed in the trade winds, or even dreams about such a trip, will know that O'Brien captures it masterfully. I felt like I was back at sea and was nearly pulling my hair out to figure out how to get back out there!
I tried. I really tried with this one. I think the idea of the author is a good one, but without enough personalized accounts or a contiguous narrative, this book just becomes the thing that everyone who hates history dreads: a long list of events, dates, names and places that have no coherent connection.
One strategy to get through this book is to just listen to the different segments based on the civilizations followed. For instance, just listen to the segments about Rome and the West, then go back and listen to the segments about China and Korea and then finish up with the segments about India. It does make it easier but still, since there's very little meat presented to hang on the historical bones of events, the book is still not much fun to follow.
I enjoyed the book very much, learning a great deal about WWII, the Marines involvement and basically the zeitgeist of the times. Narration is involving and emotional without being overbearing. I like the format of following 5 different people through the war and their personal experiences.
Without knowing the background of the book, other than its being adjunct to the HBO series, I did not know exactly what I was in for. This book does not give a complete history of the war, but personal accounts that tie stories of the war together. It also leans heavily on the writing of E.B. Sledge and his experiences as a Marine in some horrific battles. 360 degree view of the war is not delivered and some stories depended on what happened in previous battles, encouraging/forcing me to look them up in Wikipedia to understand how they affected the current story (which was enjoyable, mostly). What is gives the listener a very personal feel of the war, the times and what these people overcame (and some did not).
Overall I enjoyed this greatly.
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