Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Book Review "Unbroken"


I have just finished reading a new book. New in the sense of recently published and excerpted in the Observer. I liked the excerpt so much I went in search of the book and was really pleased that not only does the Richmond Public Library have a copy but I could put a hold on it. Which reminds me, I had better take that hold off now, because I have read it. Skimming down the search results, I saw that the library offers ebooks. I suppose I had known that but I hadn't gone there for a new ebook - I usually get old books from Project Gutenberg, and put them on my Palm. Yes, I know, I am a technological dinosaur, but it is more portable than either of my laptops and easier to use than my smart phone - and without any of those data fees. The last two I downloaded were "Howard's End" - because I had at last caught up with the movie (it came out when my children were babies and we didn't get out much then) - and before that "Don Quixote". I had seen the Arts Club dramatisation, and wondered what else might be in such a huge book. Ebooks on a Palm are much more portable than any print edition - and can be read in bed without disturbing anyone since you don't need any additional illumination. Reading at night is one of my preferred methods of dealing with insomnia and books like "Tristram Shandy" seem guaranteed to have me nodding off again quite quickly.

So - back to the topic - "Unbroken" is a remarkable nonfiction book. Hildenbrand's first book "Seabiscuit" was based on the same formula. Extensive research. lots of detail but a writing style more like a novel than a treatise. She is highly readable - not to say addictive. The version available from the library did not appear to be available for Palm - but I could be wrong about that. I downloaded the software (Adobe Digital Editions) to my MacBook and read it on that, seated at my desk. I suppose I could have carried it to an arm chair - but I was hooked, and didn't even think about it. Louis Zamperini grew up as a bit of a tearaway - but became a distance runner. He might have beaten the 4 minute mile long before Bannister, had not the war intervened. He did run at the '36 Berlin Olympics. He served as a bombardier in the US Army Air Force - bailed out over the Pacific - survived a record time in a life raft (it was that bit that I read as the excerpt) but was captured by the Japanese. They did not treat prisoners of war well. That bit was very difficult to read. It was psychologically and physically very damaging to Louie - and he had a very hard time. He was also very famous - so his life story was common knowledge in the US in the post war period. I must admit I had never heard of him - any more than I had heard of Seabiscuit, who was even more famous in his time.

I like reading text and up until now I have preferred paper to electronic editions. I did take advantage of a so called "free offer" on facebook which give me a copy of an audio book. But not only could I not make it work on the Palm - though other "samples" did work - I also found that I could NOT listen to a book and do something else at the same time. I suppose if I copied it to a CD I could play it in the car. After all, I found that the offer was not really free at all and since I did not do something - probably returning to the web page I got it from - my credit card was charged for what I thought was free a month after I got it. So I think I can justifiably make a copy. Audible keep emailing me to try more, but I really don't think they can expect me to fall for the same gag twice.

Downloading a library book presumably means that it has a limited life on my hard drive. I suppose it must auto delete or something. I will update this post if anything interesting happens. But for now not only do I recommend you check out Unbroken, I suggest you try it as a free download.

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